Toby Gerhart is done playing caddy in Minnesota. Formerly the top backup to stud running back Adrian Peterson with the Minnesota Vikings, the former Stanford star will finally hit free agency in 2014. Whether or not that means he finally gets a crack at a starting gig remains to be determined, but it at least means some teams will court him and pay him to take on a bigger role than he has in Minnesota.
After all, with Peterson being the machine he usually is and rarely missing games, Gerhart has to know his future with the Vikings doesn’t look all that bright. That’s why it’s a borderline lock that he jets for greener pastures in 2014. But to where? With teams using power run schemes more and more these days, Gerhart might actually hold a lot more value on the open market than many think.
Let’s take a look at five realistic options for Gerhart in free agency:
New York Giants
The G-Men need a running back pretty badly. They have a lot of problems on their team, but re-establishing a solid rushing attack could help cure a lot of their ailments. Gerhart’s punishing running style fits their system, too, and he isn’t likely to demand a ton or cash. He’d be a cheaper signing than Andre Brown and a better signing than Peyton Hillis. With David Wilson (neck) a question mark, bringing on a tough runner who also has some nice versatility would be a smart move.
With Maurice Jones-Drew surely on his way out, the Jags are going to have to figure out what they want out of the running back position going forward. Unless it’s absolutely nothing, they won’t stand pat with Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson. I’m not trying to say Gerhart would come in and suddenly be some elite presence, but he’s a powerful runner and he’d be the type of player head coach Gus Bradley is looking for.
The Browns traded away Trent Richardson last year and have nothing but spares on their roster. With Willis McGahee on the way out, as well, Cleveland will almost certainly be looking for more help to add to their backfield. Gerhart can give them the power rusher they lack, while they can add some more speed to the position in the draft.
Arizona has an explosive weapon in Andre Ellington, but Ryan Williams is never healthy and no one else on the roster is all that impressive. AZ has already admitted they’re likely to roll with a committee approach out of their backfield next year, so perhaps they bring in some more power to use on early downs and near the goal-line. If they don’t think they already have that back on their roster, Gerhart could be their guy.
San Francisco 49ers
The needs isn’t there like some of the teams above, but Frank Gore is 31 and the Niners probably will want to start thinking ahead when it comes to the running back position. In addition, Kendall Hunter isn’t really a feature back type and San Fran can’t know for sure what they have in Marcus Lattimore just yet. Gerhart’s ties to head coach Jim Harbaugh from their days together at Stanford have this making even more sense.
Other teams like the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins could look for a new running back to add to the mix in 2014, but the above five seem to be the best fits for Gerhart to land a solid (or even starting) role next year.