Darren McFadden 2014 NFL Free Agency Destination: Cleveland Browns


December 30, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden (20) runs for a short gain during the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes a player just can’t buy a break.  He can have all the talent necessary to dominate a league but whether through bad decisions or injury, something always gets in the way.  That is the sad state facing running back Darren McFadden.  He came into the league oozing talent and anxious to become the next great rusher alongside Adrian Peterson.  That hasn’t happened.  Despite spurts of brilliance at times he hasn’t lived up to his draft label.  What does this mean for his future?

Oakland Raiders send mixed signals with Rashad Jennings and Latavius Murray

If there is one thing fans don’t like when it comes to a player and their team, it is a gray area.  They don’t like indecision.  That is what makes the McFadden Question so agonizing.  The running back has so much talent but hasn’t completed a full 16-game season since entering the league in 2008.  His only 1,000-yard campaign was three years ago and even then he missed three games.  What scares people about him is the injuries keep coming to the same area:  his legs and feet.  That can become a death sentence for guys who depend on those limbs for their livelihood.  They aren’t called “pushing” backs.  So now every time the 25-year old gets tackled or goes to the ground hard, Silver and Black faithful will hold their breath.

Such a situation is no way to live for a team.  Where the argument starts is whether Oakland should add players as replacements for him, since he could enter NFL free agency in 2014, or merely as reserves who can spell him during games.  Nobody knows for sure what the intentions are of GM Reggie McKenzie.  Not only did he sign Rashad Jennings over from Jacksonville, he doubled up by taking Latavius Murray out of Central Floridain in the sixth round of the draft.  One thing that has become clear with McKenzie is he doesn’t like bloated contracts spent on players who don’t deserve it.  McFadden won’t keep making $9 million per year if he can’t prove he can stay healthy. Jennings and Murray offer the team options either way.

Browns need more explosion next to Trent Richardson

If McFadden does end up on the market then his injuries will slacken the amount of interest from other teams.  However, given he is still young and explosive when healthy there are certain destinations that could surface at the right price.  One team that figures to have the money to risk a short-term deal is the Cleveland Browns.  Their running back situation is a bit of quagmire at the moment.  Starter Trent Richardson, ironically much like McFadden, is dealing with a leg injury that will keep him sidelined for at least two more weeks.  In his stead the Browns don’t have much to be excited about.  None of the other backs like Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya have sniffed 1,000 yards rushing. Jackson came the closest with 709, but that was back in 2010.

Besides, whenever Richardson returns it doesn’t solve another problem with the Browns backfield.  They really don’t have any explosion. Richardson averaged 3.6 yards per carry last season.  The strength of his game is tough yards and touchdowns at the goal line.  A big reason Darren McFadden makes sense for them is his game breaking ability.  Two of the last three seasons he has averaged five yards per carry, not to mention seven yards per pass.  If Cleveland takes the primary carries away and instead uses him in tandem with Richardson, it could keep both players healthy and give head coach Rob Chudzinski a potentially deadly combination.

It just comes down to what the Raiders have planned.