Cam Akers injury: Free agent running backs Rams should consider when looking for Darrell Henderson replacement
The loss of Cam Akers is a big blow to the Los Angeles Rams’ racing game. Scheduled to be the No. 1 running back in an attack that would use his passing skills, Akers was set for a breakout season and a key contributor to the Rams’ Super Bowl title hopes.
“I think he can come to life in the passing game,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said in March. “I think he can continue to play at a high level. Really, I think he’s a fullback every time. I think he’s a special player.”
The Rams had high hopes for Akers heading into sophomore, but Los Angeles must figure out how to use their running game with him lost for the season. Darrell Henderson should get the first chance as the No.1 running back, but there isn’t much confidence behind him. Xavier Jones and Raymond Calais have never been to an NFL regular season game, while Otis Anderson is an undrafted rookie as a free agent.
Obviously, the Rams could use a runaway veteran to help Henderson and become Option # 2. Here are some free agents the Rams should consider signing in the coming weeks:
1. Adrian Peterson
Peterson, 36, waited patiently for the right opportunity to show up in free agency. At this point in his career, Peterson wants the opportunity to contribute to a Super Bowl championship roster. The Rams tick all of those boxes, especially since there is no backlash on their roster since they allowed Malcolm Brown to go in free agency.
Peterson has 14,820 career rushing yards, just 450 yards behind Barry Sanders for fourth place all-time. His 118 rushing touchdowns are fourth on the all-time list, just six past Marcus Allen for third place (123). He has the most 50-yard touchdowns (16) and 60-yard touchdown passes (15) in NFL history. He’s tied with Chris Johnson for the most 70-yard touchdown passes in NFL history (seven). Peterson had 604 yards on 156 carries and seven touchdowns in 16 games for the Detroit Lions at the age of 35 last year.
There is still gas left in the tank for Peterson, who would be an ideal choice to spell Henderson as Option # 2. Peterson is not a half-hitter who matches what McVay wants from his running backs, but the plans change with little depth on the roster after Akers injury.
2. Frank Gore
Gore is in the same situation as Peterson, although he is two years older than him. Gore, 38, wants the opportunity to compete for a championship and earn victories on a rival team, leaving the Rams as the best option available. No running back has ever recorded a carry at the age of 38, so the Rams would be taking a big risk here – even though Gore recorded 187 carries for the New York Jets last year.
Gore was not expected to carry a lot of load in 2021, but would play an important role with the Rams. If Henderson suffers from an injury, he would become the best option. Once again, Los Angeles would take a huge gamble if the Rams were to bring Gore back to California.
3. Duke Johnson
If Los Angeles wanted to go with a veteran who matched what McVay wants in his offense, Johnson is the perfect # 2 option. Johnson, 27, recorded 28 career catches for 249 yards with the Houston Texans last season, the first season he failed to hit over 60 targets and over 40 receptions. Playing 36% of career-low snaps didn’t help either, as Johnson was behind David Johnson in the running back rotation.
Johnson still remains without a team, but is the best free runner available. He will have the opportunity to contribute significantly with the Rams, especially in the passing game. His 307 receptions since 2015 are the league’s fourth in running backs.
4. Chris Thompson
There is a lot of familiarity with Sean McVay here, as Thompson played under McVay for three seasons while he was the offensive coordinator of the Washington football team. Thompson finished with 84 catches for 589 yards in his last two seasons under McVay as a save option for Robert Kelley and Alfred Morris.
McVay could reunite Thompson, 30, in his attack as Option No.2, even if Thompson was an afterthought with the Jacksonville Jaguars last year. Thompson is still an excellent pass catcher who could provide another option in the passing game.