Undervalued Back Market May Hold a Bears Need

Gene Chamberlain

The normal line of thinking when a team needs a running back is to take one in the draft.

It obviously saves to have a starter who is in his first contract, and if he's a backup a young guy is more likely to be a willing special teams performer.

If things keep up the way they are going, the philosophy will apply to everyone except running backs. Ezekiel Elliott is the only running back in the top 25 in average salary according to Spotrac.com

Drop all the way down from Elliott to No. 83 and Todd Gurley before you find a back again, and there are only three backs in the top 100. Leveon Bell stops in at No. 98 on the list.

Backs are undervalued now and it's been the trend for years. The Super Bowl showed this with undrafted free agent Raheem Mostert facing off against undrafted Damien Williams. That matchup had to be the worst news backs across the league could ever see.

It's why an all-around back with proven skills like Carlos Hyde can be looking for his fifth team in four years with a market value of $3 million a year, as calculated by Spotrac.com.

The informed Bears fan knows a need exists to bring in one more running back, so they could take advantage of this market with a collapsing bottom.

Unlike the out-of-town talking heads who come to Soldier Field each week, they realize Tarik Cohen isn't really a running back option. He's a receiver who occasionally lines up in the backfield like Cordarrelle Patterson. Neither could play running back on a regular basis if something happened to Montgomery.

Patterson runs too high and lacks the experience or blocking ability a starting back needs, and Cohen obviously is way too small for this.

They also realize Ryan Nall isn't an option, since he lacks the speed to be a regular NFL back.

The Bears were flirting with disaster last year with only Montgomery available as a regular ball carrier after they decided to let go of Mike Davis, so they could qualify for a fourth-round compensatory draft pick.

So finding a potential backup to Montgomery might not be a high priority but needs to be done nonetheless.

The Bears could use someone with good speed because they have a back in Montgomery, who can run with power and quickness but not necessarily breakaway speed.

It's possible to find viable solutions off practice squads or waivers even these days, which is good for the team and obviously horrifying for backs. Here are some options minus potential greybeards. The Bears would need this back to be able to serve a role on special teams besides carrying the ball, which is why college backs are often considered more for these roles:

Jordan Howard

Are you kidding me? Don't even consider this. Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace decided he didn't fit the style of play they had in mind and there's no reason to think it changed after one injury-plagued season and a career- low 525 yards with the Eagles.

Carlos Hyde

He'd be the most proven and one of the more expensive options. He's probably looking for starter money. Hyde caught 59 passes in 2017 for the 49ers and ran for 1,070 yards for the Texans lsat year. He's averaged 4.1 yards a carry for his career and runs with power and burst. He lacks breakaway speed.

Jonathan Williams

A potential find for some team, he played a little as a fifth-round draft pick with the Bills in 2016, got cut the next year and had some time with Denver and New Orleans. Then last year he was pressed into duty with the Colts because of injuries and produced back-to-back 100-yard games against Jacksonville and Houston. After Week 13 he didn't get a carry as other backs got healthy. He's 6-foot, 217 pounds. 

Kenyan Drake

Probably too expensive at a $5.5 million average projected salary, he's 26 and has had four very productive seasons. He has averaged 4.8 yards a carry for the Cardinals and Dolphins and had 32 or more receptions each of the last three seasons. He runs with breakaway speed and sufficient power.

Peyton Barber

A strong runner at 5-11, 225, and was the Tampa Bay starter in 2018. However, he has averaged only 3.6 yards for four seasons with a team that hasn't been serious about running the ball for years. He has flashed ability as a receiver, as well.

Ameer Abdullah

He failed as a second-round choice with Detroit and went to the Vikings last year. He had a foot injury in 2016 and missed almost the entire season, and never really regained his status in Detroit. In another year removed from it last year with Minnesota, he averaged 5.0 yards an attempt on 23 rushes. He's been used as a receiver out of the backfield, too, and has displayed average hands with a 70.9% rate on targets.

Spencer Ware

A former Chiefs back well versed with the Matt Nagy offense who led the team in rushing in 2016 but suffered a preseason torn PCL and damaged LCL, although his ACL was not torn. He's only had 68 rushing attempts since that injury. A receiver and blocker as well as a runner, he didn't really seem to generate interest from the Bears when he was available last year as they signed Davis instead.

Devontae Booker

Powerful back at 5-11, 219 who was a fourth-round draft pick and never lived up to promise after a wrist injury in 2017. He did average 5.4 yards a carry in 2018 as a relief back to Phillip Lindsay. He has always shown good hands with 30 or more catches three times and a catch percentage of 73.4.

C.J. Prosise

He's been labeled by some as injury prone and a system runner in college at Notre Dame whose skills didn't translate to the NFL. A third-round draft pick, he has never had more than 30 carries in Seattle for a season but showed he could be part of the passing game at times. Could be worth a flyer at a bargain rate.

Javorius Allen

Once a member of Baltimore's backfield committee, he went on IR with the Saints in preseason and was eventually cut and tried to become the backup to Saquon Barkley but wasn't used much last season. Averaged just 3.7 yards a carry in five years.

Alfred Blue

A 6-2, 225-pounder who had a run of five seasons as part of Houston's backfield. He went on IR last year early with Jacksonville and then was released. He never averaged much per yard but kept getting opportunties and gained 2,407 yards in five years for the Texans. Might have some tread left on the tires at age 29.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

Comments (3)
No. 1-3

7th round Antonio Gibson MEMPHIS...Speed, Power & Hands

Gene Chamberlain
Gene Chamberlain


I'd say that's possible too but I'd rather rely on one I know can actually play. They tend to waste their seventh round guys on projects that never pan out. There are lots of running backs who could be had a the lowest pay level to handle backup running back duties and at least have the experience needed to play the position.


Use a 7th round pick for a RB. They should of never let Whyte go to Pitt. Another Pace roster error. Come on, Nall over Whyte when we need a speed back? snh