By Bob Evans
The NFL’s offseason is officially underway, as a number of NFL teams made moves today to ensure they are under the salary cap for the league’s upcoming free agency period. While the Cleveland Browns are well under the salary cap, team’s like the Atlanta Falcons had to part ways with veterans.
One veteran the Falcons had to part ways with was one of the NFL’s most productive running backs during his time in Atlanta, Michael Turner. Turner posted seasons of 1,699, 1,371 and 1,340 during his five seasons with the Falcons—only missing five contests in the process.
The 5’10” and 247-pound product of Northern Illinois got his start in the league behind NFL great LaDainian Tomlinson back in 2004, and was also with the team in new Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s first season with the San Diego Chargers back in 2007. Thanks to free agency and no opportunity to start in sight, Turner left for Atlanta.
Turner has always been a productive runner in his career, however, the last few seasons it seems his three 300-plus carry campaigns have begun to weigh him down. Toward the midway point of the 2012 NFL season, he lacked the explosion and ability to hit the hole hard that was once a staple of his game—earning him the moniker “Michael the Burner Turner”.
With the Cleveland Browns in yet another period of transition, the new front office and coaching staff with be evaluating their running options on the roster. With starter seemingly locked in thanks to 2012 No. 3 pick Trent Richardson, the team will have to make a determination on what they have in backup running back Montario Hardesty—especially with a number of talented, starting running backs on the free agency wire.
Hardesty showed some burst while filling in for Richardson toward the end of the season, but he has been a disappointment since former general manager Tom Heckert traded up to land him just a few short years ago. If the new regime does not see the promise Heckert once did, Turner could become a viable option thanks to his starting experience and familiarity with his former coach’s offense.
After being released by the Falcons, Turner stated, “I’m excited to begin a new chapter of my career and truly believe I have a lot left in the tank.”
He may not be the runner he used to be, but the addition of a gracious, veteran player hungry to prove himself NFL worthy again could be just what this young team needs in order to establish a winning culture. Turner has been a part of many winning organizations and played in a number of playoff games—and that is the type of experience that teams like the Browns need in a bad way.
While there have not been any indications which direction the Browns will go with Hardesty, they should definitely look into Turner. With Richardson proving to be injury prone already in year one, it can’t hurt to have a backup with starting experience waiting in the wings.
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