As expected, Edgerrin James was recently released by the Arizona Cardinals. Nearing 31, James' best days are behind him, but as the 11th leading rusher in NFL history he'll still get a chance with a team for the upcoming season. SI.com NFL writers Don Banks, Jim Trotter and Ross Tucker discuss which team makes the most sense and what his impact would be.
• DON BANKS: Given he's north of the historically pertinent 30-year-old plateau for NFL rushers, I'm convinced we'll never again see the Edgerrin James of his lead-back glory days in Indianapolis. But as a complementary piece of the puzzle, there are a number of teams that could still use the occasionally productive ex-Cardinal.
If I were James, and I were still chasing the elusive dream of earning a Super Bowl ring all my own -- and I'm not counting the sympathy bling he was given by the 2006 Colts, the year after he left Indy for Arizona -- I know I'd be hoping to sign with the New Orleans Saints. Sean Payton's offense last season finished first in points (28.9), first in total yards (410.7) and first in passing (311.1), and remains only a significant defensive upgrade away from serious Super Bowl contention.
That may sound like a mouthful, but the Saints do have some talent on defense, and I expect first-year New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to get some results this season from a unit that suffered a plague of injuries en route to ranking 23rd overall in yards allowed (339.5) in 2008.
The Saints make sense for James, because while many expected them to draft Ohio State's Chris "Beanie'' Wells at No. 14 in the first round last weekend, they did the smart thing and opted for defensive help in ex-Buckeyes cornerback Malcolm Jenkins. Left unfilled for now was the veteran void created by the release of the franchise's all-time leading rusher, Deuce McAllister, in a February cap move.
The Saints have a talented tandem of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas slated to carry the load this season, but they'd like to have a third backfield option. Both Saints runners are a bit on the small side, and James would add a valuable bit of insurance and experience alongside Bush and Thomas, who are entering their fourth and third seasons, respectively.
• JIM TROTTER: Philadelphia is a perfect fit. Brian Westbrook is an elite back, but injuries are always a concern with him. Rookie second-round pick LeSean McCoy has potential, but no experience. James could be an insurance policy for Westbrook and a mentor for McCoy. Coach Andy Reid would love James because he perennially ranks among the league leaders in fewest negative rushes, plus he's an excellent pass protector who can slip out of the backfield and handle those screens that Donovan McNabb likes to throw.
The question that needs answering is whether James will accept a backup role. He said on multiple occasions during last season's playoffs that he still believes he's an effective starter who can chase down other backs on the all-time rushing list. The problem for him is nearly every contender has set the top of its depth chart, and no team is going to change it for a 31-year-old back whose longest run the past four years is 26 yards.
Green Bay would be a good fit for James, but Ryan Grant is the starter. Chicago meets James' criteria, but Matt Forte isn't going anywhere. New Orleans has a definite need for a durable inside runner, but the Saints have thrown the football at least 238 more times than they've run it each of the past two seasons. Balance, that ain't.
Ironically, the best fit for James might be the team he just left. After losing his starting job (and regaining it late last season), he grew to hate the Cardinals' overreliance on the pass. Arizona ranked last in rushing attempts and had three players surpass 1,000 yards receiving. But things figure to balance out now that coordinator Todd Haley has moved on to Kansas City. Coach Ken Whisenhunt reportedly will call the plays to start the season, and the last time he filled that role with a playoff team was the 2005 postseason, when the Steelers had 142 rushes and 96 passes en route to their Super Bowl win. That's just the type of ratio and success that James is seeking.
• ROSS TUCKER: The Houston Texans make the most sense. They are desperately in need of a complement to last year's rookie sensation, Steve Slaton, and they didn't fill that void during the draft. Though they did pick up undrafted free agents Arian Foster from Tennessee and Jeremiah Johnson from Oregon, it would be unlikely that one of them is ready to contribute on a consistent basis unless Alex Gibbs and Gary Kubiak can duplicate their success in picking up low-budget running backs from their Denver days. Veteran Chris Brown has been unable to stay healthy and Ryan Moats is more of a third-down back.
James would be able to help get a Texans franchise over the hump of making the postseason in a division with which he is very familiar, the AFC South. James just helped get a moribund franchise to the Super Bowl and is very experienced playing with a group of talented skill players and blending in while doing his part. He could give the Texans 5-10 carries a game, especially in short-yardage situations due to his uncanny knack for finding enough of a crease to get positive yardage and then falling forward. Just as importantly, he showed during last year's postseason that he could carry the load should Slaton go down.
Get in on the discussion: Where will Edge land?