Free agent primer: Running backs

Free agent primer: Running backs
May 13, 2011, 10:14 pm
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By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

This is the first in a series of looks at the Patriots' position-by-position needs after the draft, and who's available to fill them via free agency . . . whenever free agency might come. Today's position: Running back.

Who's Here?
Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Thomas Clayton, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley.Who's Out There?
Mike Hart (Colts), Kevin Smith (Lions), Ricky Williams (Dolphins), Brian Westbrook (49ers), Kenneth Darby (Rams), Ronnie Brown (Dolphins), Cedric Benson (Bengals), Derrick Ward (Giants), Brandon Jackson (Packers), Michael Bush (Raiders), Joseph Addai (Colts), DeAngelo Williams (Panthers), Jason Snelling (Falcons), Tim Hightower (Cardinals), Noel Devine (UDFA, West Virginia).What's The Need?
Let's call it a 5.

Between them, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead combined for 1,555 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns in 2010. They got 4.8 yards per carry combined. Not bad seeing as they were Plans C andZ respectively. Really, there hasn't been a duct-tape job successful as what the Patriots pulled in their backfield since (insert well-known instance of duct-tape use here). But they're not banking on that happening again. The draft told us that. So it's going to be out with the old (Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris - both free agents), in with the new (rookies Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley) and see what Law Firm and Woody can do for an encore. It's going to be a tough fit for soon-to-be 35-year-old running back Kevin Faulk to make the roster. Vereen will become the heir apparent to Faulk and a complement to BJGE. Ridley becomes the short-yardagereplacement for Morris and another complement if BJGE goes down. Who Do They Chase?
They have the young legs, they just don't have an old head. Ricky Williams would be a reasonable bet. Also the underrated backup to Steven Jackson in St, Louis, 28-year-old Kenneth Darby. Who Do We Look At Next?
Wide receivers.Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran