Rams free-agent preview: Running back

March, 4, 2014
Mar 4
3:00
PM ET
The free-agent market is scheduled to begin March 11 and teams may begin negotiations with those poised to hit the market beginning March 8. We'll countdown to that with a position-by-position look at what the Rams have in place, who is set to hit the market, what they might need and who might fit the bill.

In place: The team's two most productive running backs in 2013 were rookies Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham. Clearly, both remain under the team's control for 2014 and look poised to return to their roles with Stacy as the starter and primary ball carrier and Cunningham occasionally spelling him.

Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead also remain under contract as does Chase Reynolds, whose main job is to contribute on a variety of special teams.

Pending free agents: None

What’s needed: The Rams appear to be fine with Stacy as the starter and coach Jeff Fisher has expressed confidence in Cunningham's potential as the backup. Pead has been a major disappointment since the Rams used a second-round pick on him two years ago and Richardson's stock dropped last year soon after he claimed the starting job.

Pead devoted himself to special teams late in the season and did well there but until he shows that he can contribute as a running back, his price tag is too high for special teams only. Richardson probably deserves another chance as he suffered a toe injury in the opener and never seemed to get healthy as he fell further down the depth chart.

While the Rams appear mostly set at the position, it wouldn't hurt to find a speedy change of pace back to complement Stacy's bruising style. Cunningham could be that guy but it might make sense to add a true speed burner to the mix. Stacy also had his share of injury issues last year, though none were serious enough to keep force him to miss games.

Possible fits: The name you're almost certain to hear connected to the Rams the most is Tennessee's Chris Johnson, should the Titans opt to release him. Johnson has obvious ties to Fisher and would actually represent the speedy type of back that could be a complement to Stacy though his cost and desired role might make the match less likely.

Verdict: Spending money on a veteran running back just doesn't seem to fit with the Rams' philosophy. They already have five backs under control and they've proved capable of adding backs late in the draft or even undrafted rookies who can contribute. I suspect the Rams will add a back at some point this offseason but free agency is probably not the route the Rams travel to find one.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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