John Clayton, of ESPN, reports the Detroit Lions have signed free-agent running back Rudi Johnson (Cincinnati Bengals). Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
After missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury, the Bengals cut the 2001 fourth-round draft pick Saturday, Aug. 30. In seven seasons with the team, he ran for 5,742 yards and 48 touchdowns. His best stretch came from 2004 to 2006, when he averaged 1,407 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns per season.
Last year was a disappointment for the 28-year-old as he was limited to just nine starts because of hamstring problems. His injuries obviously hurt him during camp, because he lost the starting job to Bengals running back Chris Perry. Lions head coach Rod Marinelli said Johnson was impressive in his workout Monday, Sept. 1, though.
Johnson will likely back up rookie running back Kevin Smith initially. The addition of Johnson relegates running back Tatum Bell to third string.
Smith's value takes a hit. He was valued as a high-upside No. 3 running back before this move. Though he could still return that level, Johnson's presence means he should now be viewed as a low-end No. 3 option. Anyone drafting him will want to lock up Johnson as his handcuff.
Johnson's value obviously increases with this signing. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz's departure to the San Francisco 49ers helped the Lions to decide to rely heavily on the run this season. Even though they could be in some shootouts with their suspect defense, Johnson may still have the ability to perform as a weak No. 2 or strong No. 3 back. However, you should take him as a No. 4 back because of his health concerns and Smith's presence. Detroit's suspect offensie line doesn't inspire hope, either.
Bell was unimpressive during the preseason and is now virtually worthless in fantasy leagues, even with the Lions shifting to a run-heavy offense. Before, Bell was a borderline option, with value only as a backup for Smith. With Johnson in town, he is no longer draftable.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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