Okay, folks, this is the granddaddy of them all! DeAngelo Williams mentioned the four NFL teams (out of 32) that he would not play for. Surprised by his picks, we went through and analyzed another four teams Williams should disregard if he wants to play in 2017.
Now it's time to talk about the four best fits for DeAngelo. This wasn't an easy task, and by all means, doesn't indicate he can or will play for these franchises during the upcoming season. In picking the teams that Williams could play for, our criteria was simple: does the team have a need for a quality backup running back? And is that team a potential playoff contender?
Simple enough, but some other factors, as noted below, swayed us toward the other "four" franchises who should give DeAngelo a call. If they do, the free agent running back should answer, and give them some consideration!
Los Angeles Chargers
The newly christened Los Angeles Chargers are my first pick, and while they don't fit the definition of an immediate contender, here's why they would be a solid fit for DeAngelo Williams.
First, the Chargers have had a problem with their offensive line for several seasons. They're attempting to turn the corner by signing tackle Russell Okung and by adding guard Forrest Lamp via this year's draft.
Unlike some other teams we looked into, the Chargers have a proven veteran quarterback, Philip Rivers, running an offense that isn't going to change much even under new leadership. LA has a new head coach but retained offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. That should keep the Chargers offense on the same page heading into the 2017 season without much turmoil with their head coaching swap.
Finally, there is a need on the depth chart. Melvin Gordon is the starter but hasn't played a full season in two years. He has missed a total of five games over that span. Los Angeles didn't bring in a new running back via free agency or the draft to play behind him, instead electing to re-sign Branden Oliver to a new deal. Oliver only saw 31 carries in 2015 and missed the entire 2016 season with an Achilles tendon injury sustained in the preseason.
A quality rusher like Williams would fill an immediate need for a solid number two back behind Gordon; one who is also capable of catching throws from a pass happy Chargers offense. The team went through their paces with Danny Woodhead, Dexter McCluster, Andre Williams, and Ronnie Hillman over the last few seasons. Extending an offer to another veteran would not be outside the realm of plausibility.
New England Patriots
The next "fit" for DeAngelo Williams is one I argued against earlier, but only for emotional reasons. While it would hurt to see Williams land with the Patriots, you can't argue his logic:
There wasn't a lot of hatred there. I will continue to speak on the side of being right. You look at all the championship rings that they have. You cannot deny the fact that they win. They continue to win on a consistent basis. I'm in the business of winning.
The Patriots certainly do win and also have a history of making smart deals with veteran players who could improve their team. They also have a long history of using a running back by committee approach. They head into the 2017 season without LeGarrette Blount, who had 299 carries and 18 touchdowns in the regular season. Their free agent acquisitions were nothing flashy: Buffalo Bills backup Mike Gillislee and Cincinnati Bengals fullback Rex Burkhead join oft-injured Dion Lewis and Super Bowl hero James White.
Lewis has appeared in fourteen games since re-entering the league from a two-year hiatus in 2015. He has had a total of 113 carries in his two seasons with New England. White has run the ball 70 times in three seasons, with a career-high 39 carries in 2016. Both backs double as pass-catchers, with White's 60 receptions leading the way last season.
Gillislee is the most seasoned runner of the group with 101 carries for 577 yards with the Bills last season. Burkhead finished with 74 attempts with the Bengals after only carrying the ball six times in his first ten games. Cincinnati utilized him further following injuries to their feature backs, with Rex gaining 4.49 yards per carry over his final six games.
What this means is that the Patriots could plug-and-play their current backs as usual, but have no proven commodity if one of them (like the injury prone Lewis) goes down with an injury. Williams would make a perfect fit as a runner, blocker, and pass-catcher out of the backfield who could be rotated off the bench, and rested, with the rest of the platoon.
I don't have to like it, but it would make sense if Williams has another year or so left in the gas tank.
What happens when your team's featured back last appeared in a game back in November of 2015 and only managed to play in seven games that season?
That's the question on everyone's mind as the Raiders lured former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. On paper, Lynch appears to be a much-needed upgrade at a position of need behind a stellar Raiders offensive line.
In reality, the 31-year-old back could be a bust. Behind him are DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard, who both pitched in for last year's starter Latavius Murray. The Raiders till managed the sixth-best rushing attack in the league.
So why would Williams be a fit for the soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders?
Enter DeAngelo Williams, a veteran in the mold of past one-year deals Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie has made. Williams has suited up with fill-in quarterbacks before in Pittsburgh, such as Michael Vick and Landry Jones, becoming a security blanket for those quarterbacks when plays fell apart. Pair him with a contender sporting a dominant offensive line and ask nothing more than spot duty, and DeAngelo would make a good fit on the West Coast.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers finished their 2016 season the same way the Steelers did: without their star running back and losing in their conference championship appearance.
Green Bay drafted Jamaal Williams in the fourth round this season, but he's not expected to be the lead back: converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery is anticipated to carry over the role he took over from Eddie Lacy last season.
Behind Montgomery and Williams are two more rookies: Aaron Jones and Devante Mays.
Count 'em: that's three brand-new backs on the depth chart for the 2017 season, assuming the picks stick. Jones was selected in the fifth round and Mays in the seventh. The moves appear to be out of desperation; the Packers were dese[rate last season, as they brought in Knile Davis and Christine Michael in an attempt to get something going at the position.
They eventually settled on Montgomery.
If you think Montgomery can be an every down back, then I suppose another addition at running back wouldn't be necessary. However, if a team wants a viable starter who can double as an every down back, DeAngelo would make perfect sense. He would also pair up with Aaron Rodgers on a team who also finished a game shy of playing in the Super Bowl.
There are certainly worse situations I could find for the free agent rusher, and Green Bay isn't one of them.
You've made it this far and didn't see the Steelers listed as a suitor. Sorry: they're no longer in need of another running back.
It's not the team's style to reissue a number worn by a player whom they feel could return to the team. Brett Keisel and James Harrison are two recent offseason departures who came back to don their same digits. However, Pittsburgh has already passed along Williams' number 34 to Knile Davis, who was signed during the offseason to compete as a backup running back and kick returner.
With James Conner's selection in the third round of the draft and Le'Veon Bell atop the totem pole, there isn't much room left to squeeze Williams onto the depth chart. That doesn't mean the situation won't change and an emergency may press the Steelers into needing DeAngelo's services. However, for the time being, the organization appears set to move forward without Williams.