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Raiders could look to add another running back

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Darren McFadden and the Oakland Raiders running backs in 2011 training camp (photo by Levi Damien)
Darren McFadden and the Oakland Raiders running backs in 2011 training camp (photo by Levi Damien)

It is highly likely the Raiders will add another running back to the roster before camp starts. They currently have just five tailbacks on the roster which is not as many as the team typically carries into camp. Last season the team had six running backs on the roster heading into camp.

The one roster spot they have yet to fill is the one left by Michael Bush. He signed with the Chicago Bears as a free agent and the Raiders must replace his production in the offense.

The team has starter Darren McFadden leading the way but if history tells us anything, he won't remain healthy all season. And even when he is healthy, the team will need a change of pace back who can complement him in the offense. Much like any great major league pitcher has a change up to catch batters attempting to sit on a fastball. McFadden is the fastball and Bush is a wicked sinker ball in the dirt.

At this moment, the Raiders have second year back Taiwan Jones and recently acquired Mike Goodson as the leading candidates to back up McFadden. But with those two you have two more scat backs. They will provide relief for McFadden, sure, but neither have proven they can be a feature back in the inevitable time when McFadden goes out with an injury. Also neither are the big bruiser that can be the red zone/short-yardage back Bush was for the Raiders.

The team has Marcel Reece who is a defensive coaches nightmare in trying to gameplan. But he is the fullback and is a Pro Bowl caliber one at that. He was the Raiders only fullback last season which means he was on the field and involved in nearly every play, even when he didn't touch the ball. He is either plowing the road for the ball carrier, taking a dump pass, splitting out as an H-back, or pass blocking on any given play. It is not practical to ask him to take on yet another role for this team.

Also on the team at running back are hopefuls Rashawn Jackson and Lonyae Miller. Jackson may be more suited as a fullback than a tailback. Miller certainly has the measurables to replace Bush but outside of that, there is no evidence to suggest he has the talent or athleticism to fill his shoes.

Currently the top free agent candidates are:

Jackie Battle- He was an intriguing player for the Chiefs last season. He broke out in his fifth season in Kansas City to start four games in the absence of starter Jamaal Charles. He ran for 597 yards on 149 carries. He is a big bruiser for sure at 6-2, 238 pounds.

Cedric Benson- Is coming off three straight 1000 yard seasons and has not reached that dreaded age 30 threshold (he's 29). He has only broken the 4 ypc barrier once in his career but he is a dependable back. He has also worked with Carson Palmer and has openly expressed his interest in coming to the Raiders to be reunited with him. At 5-11, he is shorter than any of the Raiders' current back but he is also 15-20 pounds heavier than McFadden, Jones, or Goodson.

Ryan Grant- He hasn't garnered a lot of interest in free agency so if Reggie McKenzie were to reach out to him, it could be a great value signing. Contrary to Benson, Grant has only dipped below the 4 ypc barrier once in his five seasons in the NFL. He was simply phased out in Green Bay in favor of James Starks. Grant is also not quite the bruiser the Raiders need but he would be a proven starter.

Ronnie Brown- His production has tailed off in recent seasons but if the Raiders feel like they could get one more good season out of him, he would be worth a shot. At 6-0, 233 pounds, he fits the mold of what they need.