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Free-agent alternatives to Justin Forsett aren't enticing for Ravens

2/27/2015

All you have to do is start looking at the alternatives to figure out why running back Justin Forsett has become a priority for the Baltimore Ravens.

The growing list of running backs who've been cut -- Steven Jackson joined Reggie Bush, DeAngelo Williams, Chris Johnson and Peyton Hillis on Thursday -- contains great options for a fantasy football draft -- in 2011. In 2015, these backs are worn down and represent a Plan B for only the desperate. Last season, none of those backs gained more than 707 yards rushing last season, and Johnson and Hillis were the only two to average more than four yards per carry.

Even though the Ravens are expected to draft a running back early in this year's draft, they need a reliable veteran running back for what should be a young backfield. The top option is re-signing Forsett because he is proven in this system and lacks wear and tear.

"We would like to retain Justin," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I’ve learned something since the end of the season about Justin that I didn’t really know. He has mentored some very good, young backs, starting with Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch, Maurice Jones-Drew when he was in Jacksonville. Having Justin here -- and with the opportunity [of] also brining in hopefully another young running back -- to have Justin be around that guy would be an asset also. So, we will work to try to retain Justin.”

It's not a given that the Ravens are going to be able to re-sign Forsett. The Atlanta Falcons are expected to show interest, according to ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure.

But it should be easier (and more cost efficient) for the Ravens to keep Forsett, a 29-year-old back whose had one year as a featured back, than the likes of wide receiver Torrey Smith and pass rusher Pernell McPhee, both of whom might get market value.

If Forsett would sign elsewhere, the Ravens could look at the unrestricted running back free-agent class that includes Frank Gore, C.J. Spiller, Ryan Mathews and Mark Ingram, which would go against the team's typical operating procedure. Over the last 13 years, the only unrestricted free agent running back signed by the Ravens was Ricky Williams.

The Ravens usually go after players who've been released that offseason because they don't count against the team's compensatory picks. Of the current cap casualties at running back, the only one who might have anything left is Bush.

This is why the cap-strapped Ravens are placing so much importance in keeping Forsett. The Ravens' backfield for 2015 would be more than solid if it includes Forsett, a rookie running back and Lorenzo Taliaferro.