|ESPN.com: 2009||[Print without images]|
Give Willie Parker credit. At least he didn't sign someplace where he'd do harm to a starting running back for whom we have high hopes.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Redskins signed Parker to a one-year contract that has a max value of $3.1 million but will presumably will pay him much less than that. For this, Parker will join Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson in the NFL's version of "Golden Girls."
Not that Parker is that old. He doesn't turn 30 until November and hasn't reached even 1,300 carries in his career. (By contrast, Portis has 2,176.) But hip, leg and toe injuries have sapped Parker's once-legendary quickness, and while he did average 4.0 yards per carry in 2009, he lost his starting job in Pittsburgh to Rashard Mendenhall rather early last season, and wound up with seven carries or fewer in each of the Steelers' final 13 games, save the meaningless Week 17 contest.
One school of thought is that Parker looked bad last year only because the Steelers offensive line couldn't block for the run any longer. While we agree with that premise (it's part of the reason Pittsburgh's offense became much more pass-heavy last season), and might even buy the conclusion, what makes anyone think things will be better in that regard in Washington? The Redskins have seen their best offensive tackle, Chris Samuels, officially retire, and they cut former run-mashing right guard Randy Thomas (neither played much at all in '09), and so far only have former Vikings reserve Artis Hicks to show as a replacement. Maybe the Redskins will adapt quickly to Mike Shanahan's preferred zone-blocking schemes, and suddenly holes will be plentiful in Washington. I'm skeptical.
I'm also skeptical that Portis, Parker and Johnson will all be on this roster in Week 1. The guy who seems least likely to make a fantasy impact is actually Parker, who doesn't figure to be a touchdown maker (Portis and LJ certainly have better credentials near the goal line) and has never caught the ball well enough to be a third-down option. I'm still considering Portis a clear starter here, but the Redskins obviously don't want all their eggs in his basket. Right now, I have him rated No. 37 on my running back list, and that could drop depending on which rookie rushers end up where. For me, Johnson and Parker belong in the 70s among running backs, though if and when one of them gets cut, the other may rise a bit.
Bottom line: Don't get excited by these big-named former stars. You'll read all sorts of glowing reports about how great everyone looks in training camp, and then either they'll struggle or get hurt.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner. You can ask him questions on Facebook.