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Why re-signing Justin Forsett is such a smart move by Ravens

The football world is being dominated Thursday by DeMarco Murray and the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles landed the NFL's reigning rushing champion. They ripped a star player from an NFC East rival. But Philadelphia is also paying a steep price -- a reported $8 million per season for a running back.

This is why the re-signing of Justin Forsett is such a smart move by the Baltimore Ravens, who invested $9 million over three years in their starting running back. The Ravens know running backs take an awful amount of hits and wear down too quickly. They witnessed it with Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice.

Shrewd teams don't unload a huge amount of money into a position where starters get hurt on a weekly basis. Last season, the five teams who were paying running backs over an average of $7.5 million per season didn't make the playoffs: Minnesota, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Houston and Chicago.

No one is saying Forsett is a better back than Murray. But is Murray worth $5 million more per year than Forsett? As Baltimore sportscaster Gerry Sandusky pointed out, the Ravens paid Forsett about $1,960 per yard based on last year's production and the Eagles paid Murray about $3,500 per yard.

Not only did the Ravens get great value with Forsett, they have a proven fit in their stretch zone-blocking scheme. He was the only running back last season to run for at least 1,200 yards and average over 5 yards per carry. His 5.3 yards-per-carry average and 17 runs over 20 yards both topped the NFL.

The Ravens understand this isn't a long-term solution at running back, which is why keeping a leader like Forsett is so valuable to the big-picture plan. It makes sense now for the Ravens to use a second- or third-round pick on a running back, given the amount of talent at that position in the draft. A rookie wouldn't have to carry the load with Forsett starting, and the carries could be divided based on who has the hot hand.

The Ravens' backfield at the start of the season could look like this: Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro and a rookie taken early in the draft such as Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley, Tevin Coleman or David Johnson. Forsett would be looked upon to be the guiding force for a young backfield.

"Justin is a tremendous leader by example and willing to step up as both a leader and mentor," general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

Forsett wasn't just the first significant signing of the offseason for the Ravens. He was the one free agent the Ravens had to keep.

The Ravens had already written off wide receiver Torrey Smith and pass-rusher Pernell McPhee because they knew teams were going to overpay for their role players. They knew tight end Owen Daniels was probably going to follow Gary Kubiak to Denver, and it's not going to be a major challenge to replace his 48 catches from last season.

What the Ravens couldn't let happen was allow Forsett to sign elsewhere. He saved the Ravens' season last year when he became the starting running back after the abrupt release of Ray Rice.

He was the most valuable player for the Ravens in 2014, and he might prove to be the most valuable signing of this offseason from his production to his role as a mentor. But sometimes the sharpest moves don't generate the most buzz.