Running back is an underrated need for the New Orleans Saints. The team could be without Pro Bowl RB Alvin Kamara to start the year, and perhaps even for a prolonged period.
Kamara has led the Saints in rushing for the last four years. He will still be the focus of the offense, but could be facing league discipline for an offseason assault arrest in Las Vegas.
Eleven-year veteran Mark Ingram is the primary backup to Kamara. Ingram is the franchise's all-time leader in rushing yardage and touchdowns. However, he’ll turn 33 before the end of the season and may not be capable of solely carrying the rushing load over a prolonged period.
There is little else behind Kamara and Ingram. That was painfully obvious when Kamara missed four games in 2021 with a knee injury. The Saints did not draft a running back or add one in free agency prior to this signing.
New Orleans will reportedly meet with 27-year-old RB Sony Michel. He’s the best running back remaining on the free-agent market, and could be a vital piece to the Saints offense in 2022.
Michel was a first-round choice in the 2018 NFL Draft, the 31st overall selection, by the New England Patriots out of Georgia. He had two 1,000-yard seasons and another of 840 yards for the Bulldogs, including 1,227 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns as a senior.
As a rookie in 2018, Michel led the Super Bowl champion Patriots with 931 yards rushing and six touchdowns in 13 regular season games. He had five 100-yard outings during the regular season and added 336 yards and six scores in three postseason contests, including two more 100-yard efforts.
Michel had another strong campaign in 2019, leading New England with 912 yards rushing and 7 scores. He picked up over 70 yards on the ground in 8 of 16 contests.
Leg injuries and Covid limited Michel to only nine games for the Patriots in 2020. He had one 100-yard outing, but finished with just 449 yards and one score. Midway through 2021 training camp, New England traded Michel to the Los Angeles Rams.
The Rams acquired Michel as an injury replacement for RB Cam Akers. Michel paid off their investment by scoring five touchdowns and leading the Rams with 845 yards rushing during the regular season. He had two 100-yard outings and another three games with at least 75 yards for the eventual Super Bowl champions.
Michel isn't a strong receiver out of the backfield. He has only 47 receptions for 386 yards in his four-year career. His best of 21 catches for 128 yards came last season. At 5'11" and 215-Lbs., Michel's strength is as a runner between the tackles.
Michel has averaged 4.2 yards per carry and rushed for 3,137 yards in his career so far. He’s a north-south power runner who has decisive cutback ability. Michel runs with excellent vision and shows good burst into the second level of the defense.
New Orleans reportedly has approximately $19.4 million dollars in cap space. A one-year deal to a player like Michel shouldn't be a huge cap hit for a team that already has a roster set for a deep playoff run.
If Alvin Kamara is suspended by the NFL, Sony Michel has the capability to carry the Saints rushing attack until his return. Even with Kamara in the lineup, Michel provides an outstanding power complement to the dynamic and versatile Kamara.