The St. Louis Rams will need to add a running back if Steven Jackson decides to leave town. While the team could seek out a rookie through the draft, they could very well decide to add an even cheaper free agent.
The St. Louis Rams are facing life without Steven Jackson. Regardless of which remaining running back sees the bulk of the carries in 2013, the roster will be lacking a veteran presence. Enter Tim Hightower. In a year where there aren't many marque names at the position, teams must look at tier II players to flesh out the roster.
His best year was his rookie season, where he amassed 10 touchdowns, setting an Arizona Cardinals record for a rookie. Drafted in 2008 by the Cardinals 149th overall out of the University of Richmond, Tim was handed the rock by non other than Ram icon Kurt Warner. While never really breaking through as a legit #1 threat, Tim did have his moments. He averaged 4.2 YPC in 2009, and 4.8 YPC in 2010. His 2011 season was cut short by an ACL injury, but he was on track to just break the 1000 yards mark. The 2012 season would see him cut from the Washington Redskins due to an emerging Alfred Morris and solid backups behind him. Plus, he holds onto the football pretty well, losing the ball only 8 times over his 4 year career.
Why Tim Hightower?
Money, Experience, and Age
The man has been around the league for a while now. He has played in several different systems, and he has been out of football for an entire year. That spells a cheap roster addition for the Rams. In a season where the salary cap will only allow for maybe one big money addition, the Rams could sign Hightower for just over the veteran league minimum of $700,000 or maybe just a little more. Being a fan of Kurt Warner, I watched all of the Cardinals games this kid played in. He can ball. If not for Arrington and Wells, he would have seen the rock a lot more. Hightower will turn 27 this summer. He will have a fully healed, rested set of legs, having been cut by the Redskins during the 2012 season.
Size, Speed, and Vision
Tim is 6'0" and is 220lbs. While not huge by running back standards, he is a bruiser. He is not afraid of contact and will lower his shoulder to get the extra yard. He excels at stretch type plays, finding the hole with his vision and shooting into it. While not a burner, he has been timed as fast as 4.43 with the Cardinals and Redskins. He isn't going to hit home runs like Adrian Peterson, but he reaches top speed rather quickly, providing a bowling ball of a target to bring down for linebackers and the secondary. Hightower is also a natural power runner, who continues to churn his legs after contact. The Rams have a very balanced offensive philosophy that Tim will fit into well.
Pass Catching and Blocking
Hightower has soft hands, and can be kicked out of the backfield on dump off routes and designed screens. He has averaged just over 7 yards per catch, with his biggest pass catching season coming in 2009, when he achieved 428 yards. Hightower will do much better in passing situations, having the vision and patience to pickup the block and kick when necessary. 2nd year players Pead and Richardson are still very raw in this department.
Tim Hightower would be worth a camp invite. If he shows he is fully healed, he could push Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson to perform better, and provide a solid back for the rotation and in pass blocking situations.