The Kansas City Chiefs closed the chapter on the Jamaal Charles era when they released their all-time leading rusher on Tuesday afternoon. Charles had been with the team since 2008 and will now have an opportunity to take his talents elsewhere after a steep decline the past two seasons.
Charles, who will be turning 31 next season, is coming off of a torn ACL in 2015 that gave him complications in 2016 as well. It limited him to playing in just eight games the past two seasons, where he started just five games in 2015 and none in 2016. He was due to make around $7 million next season, but with other options in the Kansas City backfield like Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, and the recently signed C.J. Spiller, they opted to move on.
Based on his age and questions about his durability, he won’t be able to command the money he used to make, but could still be added value to a contender. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo said on Up to the Minute, “This is a guy right now who I am told, No. 1 on his list is going to be playing for a contender.”
Garafolo added that Charles is “aiming for teams that were in the postseason last year that he thinks have a legitimate Super Bowl chance this upcoming season.”
Charles has played in just two playoff games in his career. Neither one of them were wins, and the clock is ticking on his career. So where could he end up?
One team that could possibly go after Jamaal Charles is the Dallas Cowboys. He’s a Port Arthur native, and played his college football at the University of Texas. The Cowboys have been linked to Adrian Peterson, but in the case that doesn’t work out, putting Charles in the backfield with Ezekiel Elliott would be a nice combination if he’s able to stay healthy. He wouldn’t be much of an upgrade, if at all, over Alfred Morris who didn’t see many carries in the first place. He’d be playing behind the best offensive line in football, which would certainly help.
New York Giants
The Giants were one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL last season, ranking 29th in the league. Rookie Paul Perkins received more carries towards the end of the season and if paired with Charles, could make for a nice backfield in East Rutherford. The team released Rashad Jennings, so more depth is needed at the position regardless.
One team that could be a long shot would be the Pittsburgh Steelers. They just gave Le’Veon Bell the franchise tag, but could use some depth at running back to help complement Bell. DeAngelo Williams is a free agent, and bringing in Charles could be a nice upgrade, and a better option than Karlos Williams or Fitzgerald Toussaint at the position.
The Raiders backfield could be looking different in 2017, with Latavius Murray testing the free agent waters this offseason. If the team were to bring him back, adding Charles would also give Derek Carr another weapon to throw to. The Raiders were a surprise last season, yet seem to be built to contend for the future.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers had quite the interesting backfield last season. Eddie Lacy is set to hit the free agent market this offseason, and receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery turned out well for Mike McCarthy’s team. Green Bay was the hottest team in the NFL during the conclusion of the season and into the postseason before falling flat against the Atlanta Falcons, but they could certainly use some extra help in the backfield.
A dark horse in picking up Charles could be the Philadelphia Eagles, which to be fair, aren’t exactly contenders. Head coach Doug Pederson was Charles’ former offensive coordinator, and could be a welcome addition to a running game that ranked 11th in the NFL last season. The only issue there would be that the Eagles utilized Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, and Wendell Smallwood last season, and adding a fourth back could get crowded.
Though they went 8-8 last season, we saw how great the Vikings could be when healthy. They went on a 5-0 tear to start the season, before injuries derailed them along the way. Adrian Peterson is going to be a free agent, but many expect him to be back in Minnesota. If he wasn’t to return, Charles could fit in, as he’s a similar back to Peterson based on age and recent troubles with injuries. Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon would help provide balance in the backfield, with Charles needing a lighter load.
Charles is understandably not the player that he once was. It’s typical of the life of an NFL running back. Despite this, his free agency is going to make him one of the more coveted running backs on the market.
He won’t be the same explosive back that he once was, but thanks to his effective pass catching abilities, adding Charles to just about any NFL backfield would be good.