What if I told you that there was an unsigned free agent out there who has had a comparable career to some of the top tier running backs. Running backs like let’s say, LeSean McCoy. As a matter of fact, they have the same Yards Per Carry average, and are both established veterans. But there are a few differences. This player actually has a higher Yards Per Reception average (8.2), a lower fumble average (only 0.7), and a much lower salary cap hit. Almost sounds too good to be true right? With all the wheeling and dealing for the 2015 season, it seems hard to believe that someone of this caliber has been overlooked. But, someone has, and that person is Pierre Thomas.
Being a free agent isn’t something new for Pierre Thomas. After all it was the New Orleans Saints who first signed him as a free agent eight years ago. Often working in a running back committee with the likes of Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles he still managed to make his mark with the Saints. He led the team in rushing yards in 2008, 2009, and 2013, as well as consistently ranking as one of the top pass catching backs. So with this type of pedigree and low price tag, why is he still on the market? Two reasons: age, and injury concerns.
For many years it has been assumed that 30 is the magical age of decline for running backs. But I’m not sure why this idea still exists. Running backs have been shattering this age old (pun intended) perception in recent years. Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, Darren Sproles, and DeAngelo Williams are some of the first names that come to mind for aging running backs. Not to mention Fred Jackson who at 34, is absolutely ancient in running back years. Yet these players are still heavy contributors for their respective teams on the ground. While historically there is some truth to the “dirty thirty curse”, more recently players are disproving this idea again and again. Not to mention Pierre Thomas is kind of a special case. While he has had an impressive run career, he hasn’t seen as many touches per game as many of the current feature backs. This suggests there should be plenty of tread left on the tires of Thomas’s run game.
Injury woes unfortunately are very common in running backs, and Thomas had a pretty rough 2014 season. He ended the season placed on IR due to a rib and shoulder injury. However, over the past four seasons, he has only missed 5 games so his injury history may not be as dramatic as it first appears. Plus, the signing of injury prone RB’s such as Darren Mcfadden, and Ryan Matthews let us know that injury problems alone won’t be enough to dissuade interested teams.
So why hasn’t Thomas been signed and who may be interested? As to the first question, I’m really not sure, unless Thomas hasn’t expressed much interest in continuing his football career. Though some of his tweets seem suggest that he still has onfield aspirations.
Rumors suggest that the Washington Redskins and the New England Patriots may be interested in Thomas, though it seems interest is waning for the Redskins. Some other possible fits for Thomas are the Green Bay Packers, The Carolina Panthers, and the Baltimore Ravens. My personal favorite is the Panthers. I like Thomas as a replacement for recent departee DeAngelo Williams, and think he would work well with the strong leadership of quarterback Cam Newton.
I guess we’ll see what the future holds for Pierre Thomas, but I for one, hope to see more of him on the football field.