John Murphy, of Yahoo Sports, reports free-agent running back Michael Turner (Chargers) has agreed to a six-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons. The deal includes $15 million of guaranteed money and is expected to be worth more than $34 million total.
While running back Warrick Dunn has been very good to the team in the past, he was expendable with the addition of Turner, and as a result was released Monday, March 3. His yards-per-carry average dropped from 5.1 in 2005 to 3.2 in 2007. He managed just 720 yards rushing and failed to break a run of 59 yards or more for the first time since 2001.
Filling in now will be Turner, who has been stuck behind San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson for his entire four-year career. Turner has been a strong backup for those years, averaging at least 4.5 yards per carry in all four years and averaging at least 5.2 yards per carry in three of those seasons. Turner has never earned more than 80 carries in a season, which he notched in 2006, because of how durable Tomlinson has been. That year turned out to be Turner's best yet; he rushed for 502 yards with two touchdowns.
With the release of Dunn, the Falcons backfield will now be comprised of Turner and running back Jerious Norwood. Norwood has never been the feature back for an extended period of time, either; he finished with a career-high 103 rushing attempts last season. Despite the limited time, he was able to rush for 613 yards for an average of 6.0 yards per carry.
With two young pairs of legs in the backfield, the Falcons should be able to return to a strong running game in 2008. Turner should receive the bulk of carries, while Norwood could spell him on passing downs and as a change of pace to Turner's more bruising style. Questions remain about Atlanta's offensive line, however. Injuries have taken their toll, and the club had to resort to using a number of players that lacked experience. That drawback seemed less of a factor for Norwood than it did for Dunn, though, so perhaps Turner will find the going not so rough as well.
Even though he will lose some time to Norwood, Turner should be worth grabbing as a low-end No. 2 if the line improves, but he is a probably better served as a No. 3 fantasy running back in drafts next season. He has shown he is capable of running in the NFL, but he has to prove he can handle being the main back for 16 games. Norwood, meanwhile, should be worth grabbing as a handcuff to Turner in the early stages of the late rounds of fantasy leagues.
About Michael Egnak
Michael Egnak is a Hot Off The Wire Analyst at KFFL and has been with the company since 2005. Covering both NFL and MLB, Egnak is also a key contributor to KFFL's fantasy services.
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