The Los Angeles Chargers don’t have many “key” free agents in 2017. It’s fair to say that OLB Melvin Ingram is at the top of the Chargers’ list, but should RB Danny Woodhead be, too?
Woodhead adds another element to the Chargers’ offense. He’s an elite third-down specialist who can beat you in the passing game as well as sneak his way up the middle on running plays. He had a career year in 2015, finishing the season with 80 receptions, which tied the Lions’ Theo Riddick for the most catches among RBs in the NFL. He also finished the season with 755 receiving yards, which ranked first among backs. He combined for nine total touchdowns that year.
More importantly, he developed an unmatched chemistry with quarterback Philip Rivers. Woodhead was a player Rivers could always count on to bail him out in certain situations. Not only that, but he is one heck of a pass-blocker.
Unfortunately, a torn ACL kept Woodhead from playing in all but two games in 2016. Even though Woodhead is six weeks ahead of schedule, he just turned 32 years old and has missed 27 games over the last three years.
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But as much as Woodhead was missed, his absence opened the door for second-year pro Melvin Gordon, who turned in a Pro Bowl performance after a porous rookie year. After Woodhead went down with the injury, I wrote that the coaches (who couldn’t figure out how to use both backs effectively) were forced to use Gordon, which was a good thing–and it turned out to be a great thing. Gordon proved to be the bell-cow back that the Chargers haven’t had in a very long time.
With that said, Woodhead is a fan favorite and would gladly be welcomed back (as long as there’s no longer a timeshare with Gordon). He’s a good change of pace to Gordon and reliable in the red zone, but at what price do the Chargers keep him?
The Chargers have two younger, change-of-pace backs in Branden Oliver (restricted free agent) and Andre Williams (exclusive rights free agent). Many are forgetting about Oliver because he missed the entire season with a torn Achilles. Even though he’s missed a handful of games over the last two years, Oliver has the ability to make a big impact when on the field (reminds me of a Devonta Freeman/Justin Forsett-type player who could be a quality starter on other teams). The Chargers also have Kenneth Farrow on the roster (don’t worry, I’m not comparing Farrow to Woodhead).
Given Woodhead’s age and recent injury history, the Bolts shouldn’t go above and beyond to sign him to a big deal. If they re-sign Woodhead, it should only be a short-term deal. If that’s the case, a combination of Gordon, Woodhead, Oliver and either Williams/Farrow sounds good going forward.