Ben Volin, Boston Globe:
There’s something to be said for a running back who can hit the correct hole at just the right time, follow his blocks, and keep his legs churning after contact. Ridley isn’t perfect, but he was the most physical and decisive runner the Patriots had. But of the other backs, Ridley is by far the toughest to replace.

This was October 16, 2014, and the New England Patriots were running back by committee following the ACL and MCL injuries suffered by starting RB Stevan Ridley. While the 3.6 yards per carry were the lowest of his career, the fumbling problem was nonexistent. Stevan had safely carried the ball 94 times for 340 yards before the devastating injury against the Buffalo Bills on October 12, 2014.

In his two previous seasons for the New England Patriots, Stevan had rushed for a total of 2,036 yards, 19 TD's with seven fumbles. Averaging 4.4 yards on 468 carries, the Patriots had a solid ground game in conjunction with their high powered passing attack. Fumbles and injuries seemed to curtail the playing time for Stevan Ridley. Stevan was a bargain at $643,500.00 in the final year of his deal.

Stevan appears to be ahead of schedule on his recovery from the torn ACL. He may not be available for the start of training camp so the big payday will have to wait. A one year deal would make sense for both parties. Here are a few landing spots for the one of the top power backs in the league.

1. New York Jets

Having declined the option on RB Chris Johnson, the New York Jets are in the market for a top level running back. The Jets have only two running backs under contract. The featured back in 2014 was RB Chris Ivory who rushed for 821 yards on 198 carries. The backup is presently Daryl Richardson, who spent last season on the practice squad. There are plenty of carries available, and plenty of cap room with $40 million to spend.

2. Tennessee Titans

There is a good reason that the Tennessee Titans are selecting second in the 2015 NFL draft. Their running game produced one 500 yard rusher in 2014. That was RB Bishop Sankey at 569 yards on 152 carries for an average of 3.7 yards per carry. 13 NFL teams had 1,000 yard rushers for 2014. The backup was former New York Jets' RB Shonn Greene who had two rushing TD's and 392 yards on 94 carries. A third running back brought over from the Kansas City Chiefs, Dexter McCluster rushed for 131 yards in 40 carries in a limited role. The field is wide open for a featured back.

3. New Orleans Saints

The former LSU running back may be able to find a home in The Big Easy.Vincent Frank, Yardbarker:
There’s a reason why Mickey Loomis is considered one of the best general managers in the business. And in reality, he’s going to be put to the test big time this offseason. the Saints are $23.3 million over the cap. How he reacts to the Saints’ cap issues will go a long way in determining the long-term performance of the team on the field.
There will be plenty of opportunities at multiple positions, including running back. Mark Ingram, the former Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Alabama looks like a salary cap casualty. The franchise tag is open to use, but with $60 million tied up in only four players, the Saints need some room to move.

Pierre Thomas who rushed for only 222 yards in 2014 and Khiry Robinson who mustered 362 yards are the only other running backs under contract. It would be a good idea for Stevan Ridley to get in on the ground floor.

Ridley could be a steal if healthy, but the timeline for his return from injury could also keep his value down on the market. If he’s back to 100 percent, pencil him in as a sleeper starting-running-back candidate.

I hope this isn't the lasting memory for Stevan in a New England Patriots uniform, but I think it is.

Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire.

Follow me on Twitter at @_prmurphy

For more of my articles, click here.

Paul Murphy 2/23/2015 04:41:00 PM Edit

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