Brown a good backup plan

With hardly any running backs left on the market, Chris Brown should have plenty of options to choose from, writes Len Pasquarelli.

Originally Published: May 25, 2007
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

He still is without a job, but unrestricted free agent Chris Brown, the man most likely to solve some NFL franchise's tailback problem, is hardly without suitors.

Clearly the top tailback still available in a veteran market just about picked clean, Brown has heard from virtually every club in need of assistance at the position. And now it's a matter, agent Wynn Silberman said Thursday, of choosing the right spot for Brown, who played the first four seasons of his career with the Tennessee Titans.

Chris Brown
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesChris Brown rushed for just 156 yards last season.
"We're confident and comfortable that we'll eventually place Chris in the right situation," Silberman said. "Right now, it's like the name of the game is 'hurry up and wait.' But there are definitely a lot of interesting situations out there that we are monitoring."

And there are a lot of teams monitoring Brown, 26, whose résumé includes 28 starts and a 1,000-yard season (in 2004), and who didn't experience much physical erosion last year.

The upshot of having to play behind Travis Henry in Tennessee last season was that Brown set new career lows for appearances (five), carries (41), yards (156) and touchdowns (none). The upside of the demotion: Brown recovered from the nagging injuries which have plagued him at various times in his league tenure, and he is now healthy and hungry again.

Said Silberman: "He's got a chip on his shoulder and, when he lands somewhere, I think he is going to have an explosive year. Maybe last season was a blessing in disguise."

There is no disguising the fact, however, that there aren't enough available veteran tailbacks right now to fill the needs of every team still trying to fill out its depth chart.

Ten-year veteran Corey Dillon, who has four 1,300-yard seasons to his credit and who rushed for a career-best 1,635 yards for New England in 2004, remains unsigned after the Patriots released him earlier in the spring. Agent Steve Feldman insisted again this week that Dillon is leaning toward retirement. But the sense around the league is that those plans will quickly change if someone offers Dillon a deal that is for more than the NFL minimum.

But after Brown and Dillon, the cupboard is all but bare. Fact is, there are probably more viable fullbacks than tailbacks worthy of consideration. Teams with a surplus at the tailback position, and willing to trade one of their excess runners, could find a solid market as training camp nears and key time-sharing or backup spots remain vacant.

The primary knock against Brown, a third-round choice of the Titans in the 2003 draft, is that the former Colorado star runs high and, thus, absorbs a lot of punishment. There are also some concerns over his injury history, although he has never really had a major setback. Some franchises in need of a complementary or time-sharing back wonder if Brown, who had 1,067 yards in 2004 despite playing in just 11 games, could be satisfied with only 8-10 carries per outing.

It will be interesting to see where Brown, who has 541 career carries for 2,295 yards and 11 touchdowns in 42 appearances, and who totaled 1,918 yards in 2004-2005, chooses to try to jump-start his career. Teams interested in him generally fall into three categories: clubs like Chicago, Indianapolis and New England, who all lost a back from a time-sharing situation, and who are legitimate 2007 Super Bowl contenders. Teams such as Green Bay or Tennessee, where Brown might be the starter. And a few franchises where he would be the clear-cut No. 2 tailback, but where he might not be viewed as a back sharing the position.

For now, Silberman is certain is that his client will have options and a contract for 2007.

"We're in dialogue with a lot of teams," he said.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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