Eagles should look at Derrick Ward

Free agency is a few weeks away, but some rumors are already starting to heat up – like RB Edgerrin James getting released by the Cardinals and signing with the Bucs. For the record, while he’s a nice guy to have around, there’s no upside in that move for Tampa Bay. They’d still need a QB, a WR, maybe a TE, and maybe a RB. At least their line is good.

There’s one potential free agency situation has intrigued me since late in the season, when I came to the conclusion that Eagle RB Brian Westbrook’s days of truly being a workhorse should be over. The guy just can’t handle the workload he’s received the last few years. He and the team have done a terrific job managing his various injuries, mainly his chronic knee issues. But he’s no longer able to practice like a normal player, and I feel he’s been hanging on by a thread the last two years.

A somewhat easy fix for the team would be to simply give Correll Buckhalter more carries. But despite his looking very solid, they didn’t do that in 2008, and they really never have done that. He’s an unrestricted free agent this March. The Birds have been hesitant to play any back other than Westbrook, especially a young back. Heck, we now know how great Westbrook is, so why did it take them four full seasons before they gave him more than 177 carries in a season? I know there were others there, namely Duce Staley, but still. We see how great Westbrook is, and he had to flash special qualities from Day One in Philly, so they should have used him more those first four seasons. Steve Slaton, for example, carried the rock 268 times as a rookie for the Texans in 2008.

The Eagles are a little slow on the take at the RB position, which leads me to believe they will NOT draft a back this April but will instead look to prolong Westbrook’s career by bringing in a free agent veteran who has significant service in the league, thus eliminating the team’s concern about inexperience. To back up for a second, let me address another situation from 2008: Lorenzo Booker. We took some heat for our reporting on Booker and his situation with the Eagles, and that heat was fair given how Booker wound up being a non-factor. However, we really were not WRONG with what we reported. We were at training camp 2-3 times a week in August, and we talked to several team insiders about this. The Eagles DEFINITELY expected Booker to be a LARGE part of their offense. That’s why they traded for him. Just this past week I spoke to someone who was very close to the team and who worked for the organization and he totally confirmed this to me. Booker just let them down, and we never did see the team operate with Westbrook out for a prolonged period of time. Had he been out for a while, Booker might have seen the field a ton.

This all leads me to believe that Philly won’t trust a rookie in 2009 (remember Tony Hunt?), and 2009 may be their final “run” with this current group, so I believe they will look at this year’s group of free agent runners. It’s not a great group, it rarely is, but there is one guy who will be out there I believe is a great fit. Veteran Dominic Rhodes has some power, receiving ability, and some speed, and he may be their guy, but he’s not my ideal choice. Maurice Morris is a player I’ve compared to Westbrook in the past (loosely), but I don’t think he’s the guy, either.

The guy is Derrick Ward. Ward’s in his late-20s now (29 in August), so he’ll probably be looking to get that one big free agency payday and will hope to land on a team in need of a lead back. Thing is, while I love the guy, I’m not sure he is a true workhorse back. He was much more effective in 2008 coming in off the bench, and he appeared rather ordinary when he was carrying the load for the G-Men. But Ward’s skill set would be perfect for the Eagles. He’s a power guy, and they need someone who can help them sustain offense on the ground by running between the tackles. Ward can do that, and he can be a good goal line option. Maybe, if they sign him, they’ll have no choice but to actually run the ball more, since they’ll be paying someone specifically to do that, and since Ward’s talents command the ball. He’s also very good in the passing game and as a blocker, which is a huge plus for the Eagles, of course. When you consider what he brings to the table and what the Eagles need, Ward’s a perfect fit, plus there’s added value taking him out of New York.

The Philadelphia Eagles should take a look at Giant RB Derrick Ward in free agency this year

The Philadelphia Eagles should take a look at Giant RB Derrick Ward in free agency this year

I don’t think the Eagles will draft a RB with one of their two #1 picks. They never take a RB that high, and they have other needs, such as OT. But they cannot go into the 2009 season with Westbrook as their workhorse again, unless they are actually trying to end his career right now. If they want to extend it, they would be smart to bring in a guy like Ward and give him 12-15 carries a game while using Westbrook as a runner and more often as a receiver, similar to how the Rams used Marshall Faulk his final years. More importantly, if the Birds want to make another and possibly final run with this core group of players, snapping up a quality and versatile player like Ward could put them over the top.

Category: Fantasy Football

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11 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    I picked up Brian Westbrook last year in my keeper league and won it.

    Do you think he’s someone like LT you ride to the end? It’s limited what he can be traded for. Possibilities are Darren McFadden, LT, Brandon Marshall, Ronnie Brown although I’m not sure the teams would trade.

    Last year, he had some boom / bust, but he usually produces when he plays.

  2. Bill O'Brien says:

    I am in a TD only dynasty league (just finished our 20th season) and am getting ready for free agency. I have the following RBs on my team: Felix Jones, Chris Johnson, Pierre Thomas, Larry Johnson and Ronnie Brown. In our league, you can only keep no more than 2 QBs, 3 RBs and 4 Wrs with one floater pcik to be used at any position. I am only keeping Schaub and my WR are AJ, Colston, Marshall and A. Gonzalez. I am holding Witten too. So I have four spots left. I can keep 4 RBs (my other WR I can get back in FA no problem if needed) or I can make a move for another player in a 2 for 1 (me getting the 1). If I keep 4, which RB would you drop? I know to keep Thomas and Johnson. I am leaning towards Jones also because he was a special player when healthy and we get bonus points for longer TDs. So my choice is Brown or Johnson. I am leaning towards Brown, but do you feel Johnson has the better value IF he goes to a team like the Pats? Thanks!

  3. John Hansen says:

    LJ can’t be trusted, but I’d probably hang on to him at this early stage over Jones. I like Jones, but Barber’s still the guy, plus Choice is pretty damn good.

    Tom, I think I’d keep Brown over Westbrook at this point. If you’re talking about just 2009 then I would have to look at that a viable, but for the next 2 years, Brown should have more value.

  4. JBeau says:

    John, I am surprised you didn’t advise Bill to keep R. Brown over Jones. I personally think he will be a top guy next year, and so do you according to your rankings. If I was Bill, I would stay away from LJ. He has some serious wear and tear on him, his attitude sucks and he isn’t that special. He was special behind a ProBowl line no doubt, but I would rather any of those RBs over him at this point. Just my opinion though.

    John, I agree with you about Westy, but saying that the Eagles should look towards a guy who is a year younger than Westy doesn’t make much sense to me. I do like Ward, and the way he runs. But he isn’t as talented as Westy, and until Reid leaves Philly, that will be Westy’s squad. He fits perfectly for what they do. Ward isn’t much different that Westy in my opinion, but you are the expert. I would think they invest in a dominant LB in free agency or Housh\Boldin(in a trade), and draft a Runyan replacement…and the best young WR available at their spot. Bart Scott would be a nice fit. An aggressive defense like he is used to.

  5. JOOCE says:

    I would say that Ward is very different from Westbrook. Sure Ward can catch, but comparison pretty much ends there. As a runner, I see Ward as a Turner type, which Westbrook is not. Of course Ward is a better pass-catcher than Turner though.

    Here is John’s write-up on Ward last summer:

    Derrick Ward (NYG, 28) – Ward was used both as a complement and a
    backup to Brandon Jacobs in 2007. He filled that role very
    impressively in his fourth season with a stat line of 602 yards, 3
    TDs, and 26/179/1 as a receiver in eight games. Ward averaged 4.8
    yards/carry and eclipsed 100 total yards in five games, showing that
    if given touches, he can produce at a pretty high level. Ward has good
    receiving skills, a strong, effective downhill running style, and more
    than enough speed to get to the edges and turn the corner. He’s adept
    at picking up yards-after-contact and he’s somewhat of a big-play
    threat as well. He probably won’t thrive as a weekly fantasy producer
    this season unless Jacobs gets banged up, but we all know Jacobs’
    upright running style leaves him vulnerable to vicious hits. The good
    news for Ward is that New York has a top-notch O-line and runs a power
    scheme, which fits his strengths perfectly. With that said, he could
    be a yardage beast if given the opportunity.

    A “downhill runner”, “more than enough speed to get to the
    edges and turn the corner”, “adept at picking up yards-after-contact”,
    “big play threat”, “perfect fit for a power scheme”, “could be a
    yardage beast if given the opportunity”… Wow, are we talking about
    Ward or Turner??? Who knows! But we’re not talking about Westbrook, that’s for sure.

    A poor man’s Michael Turner that can catch and pass block, but probably can’t quite carry a full load sounds like the perfect complement to a RB that misses games due to injury, but is one of the game’s premier game-breaking threats. With both guys healthy, what an amazing one-two punch. If either is injured, the other can certainly take over a bigger load.

  6. John Hansen says:

    JBeau, You combined 2 questions here. Tom had Brown, but not Jones.

  7. Tom says:

    For Derrick Ward’s sake, I hope he cashes in more than Ladell Betts did after his excellent season filling in for Clinton Portis.

    Ward put up good numbers when he played. I don’t like the fact he’s 29, but he doesn’t have a lot of mileage.

    I’m not sure if Philly is the place for him to go, but I like the idea of him being part of a RBBC. Even without a lot of mileage, I’m not sure NFL teams should pay him as a lead back at the age of 29. Depending on where he ends up, he could make an interesting RB pick next year. Right now, I view him as a RB3 at best.

    John, I’ll consider making a deal for ROnnie Brown. Ronnie’s owner is willing to trade.

  8. John Hansen says:

    Listen to the interview Caplan and I did with Ronnie Brown on the site, pretty good news on his knee in that.

  9. JBeau says:

    I am trying to acquire Ronnie Brown too. Not going to well though.

  10. Tom says:

    I heard Derrick Ward is asking for $4 a million. I think that’s very reasonable for a running back with skills. A team with a RB needs should jump on that.

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