It did not take very long for the Baltimore Ravens, a team that has been beaten up already in free agency, to make possibly the best move this offseason as they made a deal Thursday to acquire running back Willis McGahee from the Bills. The move comes just one day after the Ravens were stunned with the blow that their all-time leading rusher, Jamal Lewis, signed with rival Cleveland. Lewis, who the Ravens cut due to salary cap reasons, spoke of coming back to B-More, and the Ravens wanted him back as well. When a one-year deal could not be reached, Lewis quickly headed to the Browns, who are desperate for any help they can get coming off a 4-12 season.
That’s when things between the Bills and Ravens heated up. McGahee, who is entering the final year of a five-year deal, was the Bills first-round draft choice in 2003, and is a runner who adds another dimension to the Ravens – speed. “This is a runner who can make people miss and has the explosion and speed to take it the distance,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said. In three years with the Bills, McGahee has rushed for 1,128, 1,247 and 990 yards. This past season while being slowed by injuries, McGahee still averaged 70.7 yards per game and scored six touchdowns. He also can catch the ball, as he had 18 catches this past season and has 68 catches in his three NFL seasons.
The Ravens really had nothing to lose in this deal, as they get a back with the potential of being a Pro Bowl back, more than worthy of taking Lewis’ place. They gave up a third and seventh round pick this year, and a third round pick next year. Looking at the Ravens roster, after Lewis left the only current options they had were Mike Anderson and Musa Smith, two backs who would not strike fear in anyone. With McGahee, the Ravens will likely not miss a beat when it comes to running the football, as he can easily match his best season that he had with the Bills.
Why the Bills would make this move is somewhat puzzling, but you can look at it as a possible chance at rebuilding with second year head coach Dick Jaroun, who may want to tweak the offense with a bigger, more durable back. There are a few backs that can make an impact on the free agent market, including former Titans back Chris Brown, and former Colts back Dominic Rhodes, who ran for over 100 yards and a score in the Super Bowl. Buffalo added two offensive linemen on the first day of free agency, so you can bet that running the ball will still be a big part of their game plan.
“We have a number of options in front of us,” Jauron said. “We’re confident we will run the ball, and run the ball effectively.”