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Fan opinion: should Buffalo Bills move on from Chris Ivory?

Fans weigh in on the future of the Bills’ running back.

The Buffalo Bills have an aging running back population, featuring LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. Both are over 30 and make good money, and both could be on the chopping block this offseason.

Just as the Bills are going through coaching staff and roster evaluations now that their season is over, so are we at Buffalo Rumblings. In our second look at a player that Buffalo may move on from this off-season, we look at the running back position and Chris Ivory. Our look at McCoy can be found here.

2018 Analysis

(Read the full analysis by Jeff Kantrowski aka Skarekrow)

Despite his advanced NFL years and being the backup to a possible Hall of Fame talent in McCoy, there’s plenty of reason to keep Ivory around.

As the clips show, he was quite versatile for the Bills—and not just in physical talent. The veteran was able to diagnose and help out in plays that a younger back might miss as they adjust to the speed of the game. There’s a valid concern about yards-per-carry, with Ivory’s in steady decline since 2015, his last over 4.0 yards per carry. With evidence strongly suggesting a major issue with the line, it’s not unreasonable to think Ivory would have had a respectable 2018 if there had been better blocking in front of him.

Improvement on the offensive line should help Ivory, but the natural argument becomes justifying Ivory over McCoy or a promising youngster. Ivory’s presence would likely benefit a young player so there’s not much conflict there. If the Bills only stick with one of Ivory or McCoy, there’s actually an argument for Ivory. While age is the oft-cited problem for the position, there’s an argument that number of carries might be more important. McCoy enters the 2019 season with about 2,600 carries in his career. While Ivory is 112 days older than McCoy, he’s only accumulated about 1,300 carries.

Salary cap savings

(Read the full analysis by Dylan Zadonowicz and Matt Warren)

Buffalo won’t be handcuffed by his roster bonus of $406,250. They can pay that early in the offseason and roll with Ivory through free agency and the draft with little effort on their cap. Still, it is designed as a decision point for them and Ivory.

2019 cap hit: $2.9 million
Roster bonus: $406,250
Workout bonus: $250,000
Salary due: $1.5 million
Dead money: $750,000
Cap savings: $2.16 million, if released before roster bonus

In-house replacement options

(Read the full article by Dan Lavoie)

Marcus Murphy
2018 stats: 52 carries, 250 yards (4.8 YPC), 11 receptions, 26 yards

Murphy held his own in training camp, and he made the opening day active roster. Murphy’s fresh legs were welcome at times during the season, but he struggled in pass protection and the Bills were more reluctant to dial his number as the year wore on. He finished as the team’s fourth-leading rusher. Murphy will be 28 years old in 2019, entering his fifth NFL season.

Keith Ford
2018 stats: 21 carries, 79 yards (3.8 YPC), 3 receptions, 21 yards

Ford joined the Bills as an undrafted free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. Ford signed with the Bills and played with the team in training camp. He ended up on the practice squad, from which he was promoted in mid-December during the aforementioned injuries. He had a decent, if unexciting debut to the NFL. Ford led the team with 33 yards on seven carries in his first game, a loss to the Patriots. He avoided major mistakes in 2018, but his longest play from scrimmage was eleven yards.

Taiwan Jones
2018 stats: 5 tackles

Buffalo’s special teams captain is a free agent this year. The running back didn’t receive any offensive touches before he hit injured reserve with a neck injury.

Free agent options

(Read the full article by Sean Murphy)

T.J. Yeldon

Yeldon rushed for 414 yards and 1 touchdown and caught 55 passes for 487 yards and 4 touchdowns. He averaged 4 yards per rush this year, and he has averaged 4.4 yards per tote over the last two seasons combined; teammate Leonard Fournette, on the other hand, has averaged 3.7 yards per carry in the same span. Yeldon has struggled to stay healthy in the past, but if he is used as part of a backfield-by-committee, he has the speed, the receiving ability, and the rushing ability to serve as an immediate upgrade.

Tevin Coleman

If Buffalo wants to make a slightly bigger splash, they can splurge a bit on Coleman, who has been the lightning in the Atlanta Falcons backfield to Devonta Freeman’s thunder over the past few seasons. Coleman is also 25 (he turns 26 in April), and he had a very good year serving as the starter while Freeman was injured. Coleman set career highs in carries (167), yards (800), yards per carry (4.8), receptions (32), and receiving touchdowns (5); he also ran for 4 touchdowns and totaled 276 receiving yards. Coleman is an ultra-talented player who has never had the chance to be “the guy” in an offensive backfield. Buffalo could give him that chance next season, and it would be an upgrade.

Mark Ingram

I know what you’re thinking—if part of the reason Buffalo should move on from an aging running back, why would they sign a running back in free agency who turns 30 next season? Well, he is a “young” 29, as his birthday just passed in December. Also, Ingram has less wear and tear than most running backs of his age when they hit the open market. He only has 1,321 career carries to go with 228 receptions through his age-29 season. If Ingram wants a chance to be a lead back, outside of the shadow of his younger teammate Alvin Kamara, a two-year deal for $8-$10 million could be worthwhile for both Buffalo and Ingram.

Mike Davis

The former fourth round draft choice by the San Francisco 49ers had his most productive NFL season in 2018 as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. Davis ran 112 times for 514 yards (4.6 YPC) and 4 touchdowns as a member of the most productive trio in the league, and he is the only one not under contract for next season. While he has never had the chance to be “the guy,” this is another opportunity to grab a talented player from a time-share at the fraction of the cost of Buffalo’s current offensive backfield. Davis is also a capable receiver, as he caught 34 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown this year.

Le’Veon Bell

How could we discuss running backs without the most talented one on the market? The negatives here are obvious—Bell hasn’t played football in over a year, and he is looking to make more money than any running back in NFL history with this contract. If the Bills are looking to save cash, then this isn’t the route to take. However, Bell’s talent is undeniable. In the three season where Bell has played all 16 games, he has rushed for at least 1,200 yards, caught at least 75 passes, averaged at least 4 yards per rush, and scored at least 9 total touchdowns each time. Buffalo should kick the tires here, and they ultimately should probably pass...but man, it sure is tempting.

Jay Ajayi

Speaking of kicking the tires and taking risks, signing Ajayi represents an opportunity to buy low on a supremely talented player coming off an injury. Ajayi suffered an ACL tear in Week 5, but he had rushed 45 times for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns to that point in the year. Ajayi’s effort waned at times when he played for the Miami Dolphins, but he seemed to turn the corner after being traded. If he is the kind of player motivated by adversity and doubt, then rehabbing an injury could be the catalyst for another big jump.

NFL Draft options

(Read the full article by Andrew Giffin)

The 2019 NFL Draft’s running-back class looks average on the surface, as there are few surefire franchise players, but there is plenty of depth. As is frequently the case with running backs, some of the middle-round prospects may likely prove to be more impactful and productive than their draft slot would indicate.

(Note: Grif breaks down all of the following players in his dedicated 2019 NFL Draft running back article here.)

Tier I

David Montgomery, Iowa State
Josh Jacobs, Alabama
Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
Darrell Henderson, Memphis

Tier II

Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic
Damien Harris, Alabama
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M

Tier III

Bryce Love, Stanford
Miles Sanders, Penn State
Myles Gaskin, Washington
Benny Snell, Kentucky
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Now it’s time for you to vote. Knowing all you know now, should the Bills bring back Chris Ivory in 2019? If no, how should they replace him?

Poll

How should the Bills address Chris Ivory’s job in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Keep him
    (560 votes)
  • 3%
    Bye Ivory, roll with the current other RBs
    (30 votes)
  • 15%
    Bye Ivory, sign a free agent
    (150 votes)
  • 24%
    Bye Ivory, hello 2019 NFL Draft
    (244 votes)
984 votes total Vote Now