The Buffalo Bills have a decision to make at running back, where 37-year-old Frank Gore is set to become a free agent. Do they bring back the veteran for another bite at the apple to play the steadying force on a young team, or do they move on to someone who might be able to provide a bit more spark on offense?
We break down all the angles and it’s your turn to vote.
2019 All-22 Review
(By Jeff Kantrowski)
I was actually astonished at a lot of the film I was looking at with Frank Gore. Never known for elite agility and change of direction, I figured there wouldn’t be a whole lot of that left. I got that wrong didn’t I? The power running has fallen off though. If not a whole cliff, it’s at least fallen off the roof. I’d still trust Gore to lean forward and force another yard or two, but only if the pile he’s facing is a small one.
A lot of fans feel the predictability of the Buffalo offense is a major culprit. Specifically, the high percentage of carries when Gore is present on the field tips their hand. Gore closed the season with 166 carries on 370 snaps, or 45%.
There are three players with a higher percentage of their snaps being carries, including Derrick Henry who kinda kicked ass this year. There’s three others very near Gore’s percentage. So it’s not predictability, or at least not entirely. I will say I wasn’t a big fan of some of the called runs in the games I watched.
Read the full article with GIFs here
(By Matt Warren)
$2 million including $500,000 guaranteed
We’re going less on production and more on age at this point. Four 31-year-old or older running backs were under contract in 2019, including Marshawn Lynch who signed late in the year.
Yeah, it’s the exact same contract he signed before. Darren Sproles was slated to make up to $2 million. Frank Gore made $2 million. Adrian Peterson made $2.5 million but is younger.
Structure it the same way as last year’s contract and then you’re out just $750,000 if he doesn’t make the team at the end of training camp.
Read the full article with player contract comparison data here.
In-house replacement options
(By Matt Warren)
This conversation starts with Devin Singletary, who eventually took over as the lead running back for Buffalo in 2019. While he was great during his time in the game, he still needs a platooning player to keep him fresh. If he takes over as the full-time lead back, Buffalo would then need a complement.
T.J. Yeldon is the most likely candidate for an increased role. He only appeared in six games in 2020, and they were the first five as Singletary was adjusting to the NFL and the last game, where the Bills rested a majority of their offensive starters. When he was in the game, he was able to make an impact. In the four games where he saw more than three offensive snaps, he was successful as a receiver out of the backfield with 13 catches for 124 yards. He added 17 rushes for 63 yards on the ground. At 6.2 yards per touch, he’s a guy who could be in line for more playing time in 2020.
It’s unlikely the other running back on Buffalo’s roster will be able to make a significant difference next season. Christian Wade was signed as part of the International Pathway Program. While he’s a very talented runner, he only started playing football a year ago. He spent the 2019 season on Buffalo’s practice squad and lots of folks are clamoring for him to play. I think that’s foolish. He won’t bring special-teams ability, he’s never blocked before, he’s never run routes. The pathway program is two years for a reason, and Wade will best be served back on the practice squad.
Free agent replacement options
(By Sean Murphy)
As a restricted free agent who entered the league as an undrafted free agent, an original-round tender would cost San Francisco $2.1 million, but would net them zero guaranteed draft-pick compensation if he chose to sign with someone else. It’s unlikely that the 49ers will offer Breida a second-round tender ($3.278 million) or a first-round tender ($4.667 million). As a part-time player over the last three seasons, Breida has shown himself to be explosive as both a runner and a receiver, averaging at least five yards per touch over the course of his career.
Buffalo loves veteran running backs, and Hyde is a veteran coming off his best professional season. For the first time in his career, he eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing and, at age 29, he still has a good year or two left in him. Hyde has never carried the ball more than he did this season, toting the rock for 245 carries at an average of 4.4 yards per rush. At 6’ tall and nearly 230 lbs, he’d bring a bigger-bodied back dimension to the mix, serving as the thunder to Singletary’s lightning.
He has been a remarkably inefficient runner since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2016, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry on his 551 career rushes. He hasn’t shown a ton of ability as a receiver, managing only 57 catches for 349 yards so far. As a team, the Bucs haven’t averaged four yards per rush since the 2015 season, so it hasn’t been all Barber.
Would there be a more Billsy signing than adding a future Hall of Fame rusher who is closer to earning an AARP card than he is his college days (not literally, but you know what I mean). Peterson would fit the profile of the kind of free-agent runner Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have sought in the past—bruising, bigger backs who are veterans with great track records.
Another buy-low candidate, Howard’s career started with a bang as a rookie with the Chicago Bears in 2016, where he made the Pro Bowl, rushing 252 times for 1,313 and six touchdowns, adding 29 receptions for 298 yards and a touchdown. After seeing his yardage total decline in the next two seasons (1,122 in 2017 and 935 in 2018) as well as his average-yards-per-carry number (4.1 in 2017 and 3.7 in 2018), Howard was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a sixth-round pick. He was having a nice bounce-back year for the Eagles, but a shoulder injury kept him out for the back end of the season.
While he’s probably the best player on this list (at least at this point in his career), there is almost no chance that the Bills look to pursue him given his legal troubles. Hunt exploded as a rookie by combining for 1,782 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. His second season was just as successful on the field, however, video surface of a domestic incident where Hunt physically assaulted a woman in a hotel room, and he was released. This year, he resurfaced with the Cleveland Browns, and he showed plenty of ability in limited action. If the Bills are willing to put their morals aside, Hunt would be a great addition from a football perspective. Personally, I’d pass.
After escaping Miami, Drake carried 123 times for 643 yards and eight touchdowns in Arizona, winning plenty of people some fantasy championships this year. Given his excellent performance, it would make sense if the Cardinals didn’t want him to go, but they really don’t have much of a choice given the financial commitments they already have at the position. Of the players on this list, Drake will probably command the biggest contract, as the big-bodied back (6’1” and 211 lbs) will only be 26 heading into the season.
Read more about the free agent options here
2020 NFL Draft options
(By Andrew Griffin)
Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin)
Taylor is the 2020 Draft’s premier power back, with an impressive blend of size, power and speed. He has sprinter speed in a straight line, and even showed that he can be an adequate pass catcher this season. Taylor has struggled a bit with fumbles, and has a lot of tread on his tires, but he’s likely to be a first-round pick.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn (Vanderbilt)
Zack Moss (Utah)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU)
Cam Akers (Florida State)
AJ Dillon (Boston College)
Lamical Perine (Florida)
Read more about the tier II and tier III options in our full article here
Opinion: Gore brings more than 3.6 yards per carry
(By Matt Warren)
With a second-year quarterback and brand-new-everything around the entire offense, Gore was a stabilizing veteran presence. He’s been there, done that in every scenario. He was McDermott’s leader on the field and in the meeting room.
The season started well, with the high-water mark being a 100-yard game against the New England Patriots where he averaged 6.41 yards per carry in Week 4 with Singletary out due to injury.
Buffalo has a leadership void with the losses of Eric Wood, Kyle Williams, and Lorenzo Alexander over the last three offseasons. Gore could be that guy in the locker room, but folks aren’t looking to the vet, they are looking at third-year quarterback Josh Allen. Allen is the go-to guy for comments as the leader of the offense. Left tackle Dion Dawkins is the quote machine. You WANT those two young leaders to step up, which might not be wholly possible with the very well-respected Gore in the room.
If Gore wants to play another season, it’s probably best that he does it somewhere else in 2020. Find a young team that needs stabilization at running back and be that rock.
It’s not fair to Gore to re-sign him just to be an offseason presence. No one wants to see him as a training camp body who gets cut at the beginning of September or as a game day inactive who barely makes the team. With the Bills in need of more pop from their number-two running-back position, it’s unfair to expect that from Gore at 37.
Read the full opinion piece here.
Now it’s your turn to vote. You have all the information you need to make an informed decision on the veteran.
What should the Bills do at the second running back position this offseason?
This poll is closed
Re-sign Gore to be RB2
Let Gore walk, roll with Yeldon as RB2
Let Gore walk, sign a solid free agent to be number 2
Let Gore walk, draft a high or mid-round rookie to be RB2
Re-sign Gore as a depth option, relying on Yeldon as RB2
Re-sign Gore as a depth option, but add a new RB2 in free agency
Re-sign Gore as a depth option, but add a new RB2 in the draft
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