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

Here is a question that the


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


Damien Berry

and rookie third-round pick

Bernard Pierce

– will enter training camp with three combined


carries. All of those belong to Allen, who carried the ball three times for eight yards in the Ravens’ blowout victory over theSt. Louis


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


Jerious Norwood


Atlanta Falcons


LaDainian Tomlinson


New York Jets


Derrick Ward


Houston Texans

) and

Cadillac Williams


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.