Hey everybody. Tough loss to take on Sunday. Time to move on and look ahead to the offseason. Jason (big_jay) and Adam (seton hall) have already gone into draft mode with several excellent posts, so I'll attempt to follow suit with some pieces of my own, starting with my thoughts on Rashard Mendenhall.
*Just a side note I posted this same piece on one of Jim Wexell's forums late the other night, so I'm interested to see if there's any varying of opinion between here and there.
Picture yourself as Kevin Colbert. Fresh off a painful and shocking loss to Denver, you're now sitting at your office desk preparing to initiate operation "Geezer Dump." Jerseys with numbers 86, 51, and 91 are being put into the "Do Not Use" commemorative closet, while you toss an occasional dart at a poster of Tim Tebow. As your eyes scan the payroll, stopping and double-taking at the names Kemoeatu, Chris, and McFadden, Bryant and their respective salaries, you pause for a moment at the name Mendenhall. You immediately feel a pang of sympathy for the young man and envision him hobbling around his house as he attempts to recover from the torn ACL. You are about to break for lunch and text Kemoeatu that to make things interesting, the only way he gets his '11 salary is if he can protect it from a blitzing 4 year-old (money well saved), when you are struck with inspiration. Quickly you call up Mike Tannebaum, GM of the hapless New York Jets, and make an offer involving your wounded ball carrier.
The Jets in particular are one of the few teams left in the league that still put great emphasis on the running back position and what they have there in Greene and withering LT is underwhelming to say the least.They are of course welcoming in Tony Sparano in as their new offensive coordinator, but I think the run-first offense will still be very much in effect-Sparano is the father of the wildcat after all-meaning that an upgrade is needed. The Jets pick 15th in each round this year (too late of a pick to get stud RB Trent Richardson IMO), and while it'd be ridiculous to expect a first round pick for Mendenhall, I think it's more than fair to expect a second rounder in exchange for a back that in the last 3 seasons has rushed for over 3,000 yards and amassed exactly 30 touchdowns (29 Rushing, 1 Receiving).
What works against Mendenhall is of course his recent acl tear, an unspectacular 2011 campaign, and a pedestrian 4.1 ypc for his career. Still young however (he'll be just 25 in June), Mendenhall could very well still have some gas left in the tank, well worthy of the attention of teams in need of a good runningback. Outside of the Jets I can ony really characterize the Patriots, Colts, Browns, and perhaps the Giants as teams "in need" of a runningback. The Patriots are a pass-first offense that does not rely heavily on running, but I have to think Mendenhall would provide an upgrade to the likes of Green-Ellis and Woodhead. The Colts are going to draft Andrew Luck, and if Manning leaves than they may want to have a good running option to help ease Luck's transition to the NFL. The Browns look like they're parting ways with Peyton Hillis, but they may be the leading candidates to take the aforementioned Trent Richardson in the draft come April. Then there's the whole "never trade within the division" strategy.
As far as the Steelers are concerned the move makes sense on a couple levels. 1. The offense is clearly pass-oriented now that the receiving corp has blossomed, 2. Mendenhall will enter his contract year in 2012 (an additional factor that may hinder his value as his new team would have to end up giving him a new deal if they invested considerable draft picks), and the Steelers are going to have a hard enough time trying to keep Brown, Sanders, and Wallace locked down long term within the next two years, likely leaving little money for Mendenhall, 3. The running backs not named Mendenhall are pretty damn good. I like Isaac Redman, Moore, Dwyer, Batch and Clay in some kind of committee. They can all run the ball and can all help supplement what could turn into one of the elite passing attacks in the league, provided the offensive line improves in the near future. Plus there's a kid named Doug Martin (picture right) out of Boise State who reminds me a bit of Jones-Drew/Rice who should be available at the end of the second round/early third, meaning that there are other, affordable options out there.
Even using Mendenhall as a piece to swap first round picks with a team higher up i.e. the Jets would be fine by me. Ultimately, with some of the veteran talent it will lose this offseason, this team could use a great draft in 2012 to help remain a contender next season. Additional/Higher draft picks could give Colbert and Co. the foundation to build the next generation of great Steelers.
"Look Chris is trying to block!"
Cover Photo: http://www4.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Rashard+Mendenhall+James+Ihedigbo+2011+AFC+Si2xhBxWQUwl.jpg
Rex Ryan photo: http://gothamist.com/attachments/jen/2011_10_rexryan.jpg
Doug Martin photo: http://ogdraft.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Doug-Martin.jpg
Kevin Colbert photo: http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/14/fullj.a63d5e5ffb4a388e681e2ac765cdf464/a63d5e5ffb4a388e681e2ac765cdf464-getty-136010274.jpg