The concern with Arian Foster has always been health. Foster, who will turn 30 in August, racked up 6,472 rushing yards during his seven years as a Texan, and earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2010 to 2012, averaging about 1,900 all purpose yards and 16 touchdowns in those seasons. But he’s now coming off a major injury, having ruptured his Achilles in late October of last year.
As he’s presumably still recovering from that malady, Foster apparently won’t work out for teams until late July, so it could be awhile before he finds a new club. Still, as we noted when ranking him as the third-best offensive free agent remaining on the open market, Foster possesses the highest upside of any player still on the board, meaning that he should be able to generate interest around the league.
Let’s take a look at the clubs that could make sense as fits for Foster in the coming months…
- Denver Broncos — Foster spent the first five years of his career under Gary Kubiak in Houston, so it would make sense that the current Broncos head coach would have interest in his former bellcow back. There hasn’t yet been any reported link between Denver and Foster, and perhaps the club feels that their backfield is too crowded given that they re-signed both C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman — handing the former a four-year, $18MM deal — and used a fourth-round pick on Devontae Booker. But if they’d have him, Foster might welcome the opportunity to not only play in a zone-based scheme that he knows well, but to join the defending Super Bowl champions.
- Detroit Lions — After finishing dead last in the NFL in rushing yards last season, the Lions haven’t done much to address their backfield, having only signed Stevan Ridley in free agency while using a seventh-round pick on Dwayne Washington. Detroit did invest in its offensive line, spending a first-round pick on Taylor Decker (who looks to be the club’s preferred option at left tackle) while picking up Graham Glasgow and Joe Dahl, who figure to be key reserves during their rookie seasons, in rounds three and five, respectively. But adding another back to their rotation, and limiting their dependence on Ameer Abdullah (who underwent shoulder surgery over the offseason), Theo Riddick, and Zach Zenner, might be the best route for the Lions.
- Indianapolis Colts — Like the Lions, the Colts chose to address their rushing game concerns not by adding to the crop of backs, but by concentrating on their offensive line, using four draft picks (including their first-rounder) on front five help. Indy’s running back depth chart is still perilously thin behind 33-year-old Frank Gore, with Robert Turbin and Jordan Todman representing the best fill-in options if Gore goes down. New offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will reportedly add more zone-blocking concepts to the Colts’ game-plan, so Foster, who’s spent his career in that scheme, might feel at home.
- Miami Dolphins — Miami was the first known club to show interest in Foster, having him in for a visit at the end of March. While that meeting didn’t result in a deal getting finalized, the Dolphins are reportedly still monitoring Foster’s free agency, likely waiting for him to show signs of full health. Head coach Adam Gase has said that second-year running back Jay Ajayi has the inside track at leading Miami’s backfield in touches, and the team spent a third-round pick on fellow back Kenyan Drake, but after striking out on C.J. Anderson, Chris Johnson, and Ezekiel Elliott over the past several months, the Dolphins are clearly in the market for another runner as they seek to replace Lamar Miller.
- New England Patriots — The Patriots have spent the past few months adding solid veteran role players like Chris Long, Terrance Knighton, Shea McClellin, Nate Washington, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bill Belichick & Co. wrap the offseason by signing Foster. New England reportedly had “preliminary interest” in Foster last month, and he’d make for a nice fit in a backfield that includes LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, James White, Donald Brown, and Brandon Bolden. That stable of backs would mean that Foster wouldn’t be required to carry the full load, and limited touches could be a boon to his health.
- Oakland Raiders — Latavius Murray was one of only seven running backs to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 2015, and he did so behind an offensive line that ranked just 19th in adjusted line yards. But the Raiders seemed set on adding another back this offseason, expressing interest in both Doug Martin and DeMarco Murray before drafting DeAndre Washington in the fifth round. Oakland is clearly an ascending team, with a young offensive core that already includes Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Clive Walford, and Murray. A playmaker of Foster’s talent could be the final piece that allows them to knock off the Broncos in the AFC West.
- Philadelphia Eagles — Having already shipped out DeMarco Murray, the Eagles have dealt with trade rumors regarding fellow running back Darren Sproles — while both team and player have downplayed any such speculation, Sproles could be in danger of not making Philadelphia’s final roster even if he isn’t dealt away, as Over the Cap’s performance-neutral Expected Contract Value metric gives Sproles a 92% chance of being released. With Ryan Mathews and fifth-round rookie Wendell Smallwood the only guarantees to earn roster spots, a veteran like Foster could add a spark and depth to a backfield that could use both.
- San Diego Chargers — San Diego had high hopes for its rushing attack after trading up to select Melvin Gordon in the first round of last year’s draft, but offensive line injuries and Gordon’s own poor play led to the Chargers finishing 31st in rushing DVOA. Gordon then had microfracture surgery in January, and while his long-term prognosis is positive, serious knee injuries are always unwelcome news for young running backs. The Chargers have the useful Danny Woodhead, the small-statured Branden Oliver, and the wonderfully-named Dreamius Smith behind Gordon, but there’s certainly room for another back.
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