Even after drafting Pierce, the Ravens still have decisions to make at running back

Here is a question that the Ravens will have to answer in the coming weeks: Will they be comfortable going into the season without an experienced backup behind Ray Rice?

Currently, the three top guys behind Rice on the running back depth chart – second-year players Anthony Allen and Damien Berry and rookie third-round pick Bernard Pierce – will enter training camp with three combined NFL carries. All of those belong to Allen, who carried the ball three times for eight yards in the Ravens’ blowout victory over theSt. Louis Rams in Week Three.

Allen, the seventh-round pick last year, was inactive for the Ravens’ final 13 games last season. Berry, a rookie free agent out of Miami, spent the season on the practice squad. Pierce, who the Ravens traded up to make sure they got, had a dominant final season at Temple, rushing for 1,481 yards and a school-record 27 touchdowns. However, it’s obviously unknown how his game will translate to the next level.

The Ravens also will sign with rookie free agent Bobby Rainey, who is Western Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher. But the fact remains, they are extremely thin in terms of experience behind Rice, and that looms even larger this offseason with Rice expected to sit out mini-camps as his agent tries to negotiate a long-term contract extension with the Ravens.

The Ravens had a lot of trust in Ricky Williams last year to get the key yard on third-and-short, to help run out the clock in the fourth quarter and to hold onto the ball and keep the chains moving with Rice on the sidelines taking a breather.

His retirement was a disappointment for team officials who thought he was a good fit in his current role. Ravens’ officials have spoken highly of Allen and his readiness to assume a greater role and they obviously wouldn’t have traded up for Pierce if they didn’t think he’d be a key contributor.

But it’s still hard to imagine the Ravens not adding a veteran rusher who has been through the wars. While they don’t have much money to spend, there is plenty available on the free agent market.

Long-time Ravens’ nemesis Cedric Benson, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals, probably heads the list but he clearly wouldn’t be satisfied with only getting a couple of carries per game and he’d also cost a little more than some of the others.

Ryan Grant (Green Bay Packers) would be a decent fit, and so would Joseph Addai (Indianapolis Colts) assuming he’s healthy. Addai hasn’t been reliable in recent seasons because of injuries, but you have to figure playing a reserve role could keep him healthy and prolong his career.

Other available running backs include Jackie Battle (Kansas City Chiefs), Ronnie Brown (Philadelphia Eagles), Justin Forsett (Seattle Seahawks), Earnest Graham (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Tim Hightower (Washington Redskins), Thomas Jones (Chiefs), Jerious Norwood (Atlanta Falcons), LaDainian Tomlinson (New York Jets), Derrick Ward (Houston Texans) and Cadillac Williams (Rams).

As I said, there is plenty of available. Now, it’s up the Ravens to decide if a veteran running back is a legitimate need or a luxury.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
  • Ravens pick Pierce scored 5 times versus the Terps

    Ravens pick Pierce scored 5 times versus the Terps

    In case you missed Temple’s 38-7 win over Maryland last fall, the story in that lopsided Terps loss was Owls running back Bernard Pierce, who set a Temple record by rumbling for five touchdowns. Pierce had four of them before the midway point of the second quarter as Temple rolled to a 31-0 halftime...

  • Harbaugh says Patriots' Super Bowl titles 'stained'

    John Harbaugh says New England Patriots' Super Bowl titles are 'stained'

    Ravens coach John Harbaugh clarified comments he made on a local radio station Tuesday in which he said that Super Bowl championships won by the New England Patriots were "stained" and have "asterisks" because of the Spygate scandal in 2007.

  • Did the Ravens get a late steal in Tommy Streeter?

    Did the Ravens get a late steal in Tommy Streeter?

    Despite the uncertainty over who will be their third wide receiver this season, the Ravens waited until the final couple hours of the 2012 NFL draft weekend to address the wide receiver position. Late in the sixth round, the Ravens drafted Miami wide receiver Tommy Streeter. He was the 27th receiver...

  • Grading the NFL draft: Report cards for each team

    Grading the NFL draft: Report cards for each team

    Grading a draft immediately after it concludes is akin to giving your compliments to the chef before a meal is served. Sure, the food might sound good on the menu, but the true evaluation won't come until after the product has been tested. It will take at least three years before we can truly assess...

  • Jeff Zrebiec analyzes the Ravens' 2012 schedule

    Jeff Zrebiec analyzes the Ravens' 2012 schedule

    The Ravens won't get too many breaks in their 2012 regular-season schedule, but they will get their long-awaited Monday night home game -- and they won't have to wait long. The NFL released its 2012 schedule Tuesday night and it has the Ravens playing four prime-time games, including a season-opening...

  • Washington Redskins 31, Ravens 13

    Washington Redskins 31, Ravens 13

    Pictures from the Ravens and Washington Redskins' preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium.

  • Ravens Insider

    Ravens Insider

  • Philadelphia Eagles 40, Ravens 17

    Philadelphia Eagles 40, Ravens 17

    Pictures from the Ravens' preseason football game against the Eagles in Philadelphia.