In a move that is somewhat surprising for a team that usually guards its draft choices, the Baltimore Ravens are giving up this years 3rd and 7th round draft picks along with their 3rd round pick in 2008 to acquire running back Willis McGahee from the Buffalo Bills.
Even though McGahee was never officially on the trading block, the Bills head coach Dick Jauron stated he would listen to any offers for the 25-year-old player. Other teams rumored to have been interested in a trade included the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Tennesee Titans.
The Ravens opted for the trade after long-time starter Jamal Lewis signed with their division rivals the Cleveland Browns. They had originally said their preference would have been resigning Lewis however I think the addition of McGahee is a definite upgrade.
Even though Lewis is only two years older than McGahee, he has played seven seasons in the league and the numerous hits he received in the course of his career have taken their toll. In 2003, he rushed for 2,066 yards, an average of 5.3 yards per carry. In the past two years, he has only averaged about 3.5 yards per carry.
McGahee, in contrast, has rushed for 3,365 yards over the past three seasons while playing behind a suspect offensive line. And, since he has less wear and tear on his body, he will give the Ravens a long-term answer at running back versus the series of short-term deals the team has been offering Lewis out of concerns about how much longer he could play.
The trade doesn’t come without risks however.
Part of the reason the Bills were so willing to part with McGahee even without a replacement on their roster and few options available through the draft and free agency is his reportedly questionable work ethic. Since he prefers to work out in Florida, he didn’t participate in the Bills off season program. He also reportedly struggled to grasp the offense Jauron implemented last season; occasionally making mistakes on plays.
Despite that, he was still the Ravens’ best option. The only other running backs on their roster are Mike Anderson, who will be 34 next season, and 2006 4th round draft pick P. J. Daniels who has not played in a game.
They also had very few free agent options available. Titans running back Chris Brown and former Indianapolis Colt Dominic Rhodes are the only two players who have had a 1,000 yard season. Brown has missed significant playing time because of injuries and Rhodes has been primarily a back up player for most of his career and has done little to show he could be a featured back, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry last season.
They also would have very few options available to them in this year’s draft, which is thin at the running back position. The two best prospects, Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma and Marshawn Lynch of California, will be gone by the time the Ravens pick at 29th overall.
McGahee’s addition will allow them to focus on other needs and move on with a new chapter in the organization’s history.