The Oakland Raiders have some major questions coming up this offseason with a ton of money coming off of the books and several key players with contracts that need to be renewed. Perhaps the biggest name is their oft-injured superstar Darren McFadden. McFadden has been nothing but unrealized promise and potential, because he just can’t stay on the field. With just a single 1,000-yard season and a declining yards per carry average, is it time for the Raiders to cut ties with the former fourth overall pick from Arkansas?
McFadden had his lowest rushing output since 2009, when he only played in 12 games and split time with Justin Fargas and Michael Bush. It was also his only season other than 2009 that he did not have a run more than 30 yards. The most alarming stat is his yards per carry statistic. McFadden average 4.8 yards per carry before the last two, which have been consecutive years of 3.3 yards per carry. Those two lackluster years have dropped his career average down to 4.2 yards per carry. McFadden is no longer showing the explosive playmaking ability that made him one of the up and coming stars of the NFL.
It was another injury-filled season for the star tailback. It was the second-fewest games played in a season for McFadden with just 10. Five of the six games that McFadden missed came in the final nine games of the season. He was also highly ineffective during those four games that he did play in, as he had 21 carries for 39 yards for a 1.9 yards per carry average and one touchdown.
The most effective running back on the Raiders team was actually free agent pick up Rashad Jennings. Jennings showed promise with his first couple of seasons in Jacksonville, as he spelled Maurice Jones-Drew. When given an opportunity for more touches with Jones-Drew suffering with injuries, Jennings could not take advantage with his least productive season of his career. The Raiders picked him up in the offseason as a bargain free agent and insurance for the oft-injured McFadden.
Jennings was a revelation for the Raiders offense with his powerful north-south running style. Jennings filled in admirably when McFadden went down. Over that final nine-game stretch is when he was able to show what he could do, he had 127 carries for 593 yards for a 4.7 yards per carry average and six touchdowns. The first three games of that nine-game stretch saw Jennings gain 350 yards, which was nearly McFadden’s total in the entire season.
Now to look at the contract situation, McFadden is coming off the final year of a six-year, $42 million deal. Jennings is coming off of a one-year, $630,000. McFadden is going to be 27 years old going into next season, while Jennings is going to be 29 heading into the 2014 season. McFadden is still young enough to command a pricier contract, as you would be paying for potential. Jennings would command a higher price than his low money, but it would not break the bank. Jennings would also be a much shorter term deal, as he is nearly that dreaded age of 30.
The smarter deal would be to sign Jennings and let McFadden test the free agent waters. Jennings would give the team some freedom in regards to the salary cap and the roster situation. A cheap deal with Jennings would allow the Raiders to be smart with the vast of amount of cap space they have opened up for the upcoming offseason. They can focus on re-signing key free agents and to fill key holes. A short-term deal with Jennings will also not prevent the team from looking to the draft to find their running back of the future.
Overall, Jennings looks to be the running back that the Raiders need to focus their efforts on bringing back, as he makes the most sense from a financial and personnel standpoint. McFadden’s time as a Raider has probably come to an end and it is time for the team to find the new face for their offense.