Posted Fri Dec 28th by Jon Heath
The Denver Broncos will have to make a big decision regarding their backfield in the offseason.
Will veteran Willis McGahee return for the 2013 season?
In 2011, McGahee signed a four-year, $9.5 million deal with Denver. In his first season, McGahee ran with authority and benefited from Denver’s zone-read offense, rushing for 1,119 yards on the ground.
It was a different story in 2012, as McGahee was productive (167 carries for 731 yards) but also plagued by turnovers (fumbling five times in nine starts). Those kind of mistakes from a 31-year old veteran are not acceptable, and the Broncos haven’t exactly missed McGahee since he went down with an injury and landed on injured reserve.
In McGahee’s absence, 25-year old Knowshon Moreno has re-emerged as a starter in Denver and has finally started running like the Broncos hoped he would when they drafted him in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Over his past five starts, Moreno has rushed 115 times for 466 yards (4.0 average) and three scores while adding 145 receiving yards to his totals.
Moreno has been running far better than McGahee was earlier in the year and hasn’t fumbled in 116 carries. Moving forward, it appears likely that Moreno will stay in Denver (he is owed $1.7 million in 2013 and $1.31 million in 2014), but McGahee is another story.
The Broncos drafted Ronnie Hillman in the third round last April and Jacob Hester was brought in mid-season to be the team’s short-yardage and blocking back. The team likes the potential Hillman has and Moreno will be coming back—Hester may return, too, and if the team keeps Lance Ball for special teams purposes, that would leave McGahee as the odd man out.
McGahee is under contract through 2014 (he is owed $2.5 million in 2013 and $2 million the following year), but it’s hard to think of a role for the veteran in Denver’s offense next season. Going on age 32, McGahee could provide depth and experience, but his ball security could prove to be a liability, especially in the playoffs.
Ultimately, the Broncos may look back on the success the ground game has had in McGahee’s absence and declare Willis expendable. It may not sound fair, but it is the life of an aging NFL running back: produce or go home.
What are your thoughts? Should the Broncos bring back McGahee next season, or move on with another running back? Dish out your thoughts in the comments below and vote in the poll!