Baltimore Ravens: Willis McGahee, What’s Next for Aging Running Back

Last Wednesday Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee posted on his Twitter account, “I wonder what the Ravens are going to do wit me.”

As of late Monday afternoon, McGahee knows the answer to that question.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the Ravens announced their plans to cut the nine-year veteran back on Thursday, along with Todd Heap, Kelly Gregg and Derrick Mason. Action at the Ravens’ Owings Mills, Maryland headquarters has been fast and furious following the end of the 136-day NFL lockout today.

McGahee, who was acquired by the Ravens from the Buffalo Bills in March 2007 for three draft picks (two third-rounders and a seventh-rounder) paid immediate dividends upon arriving in Baltimore.

McGahee earned his first Pro Bowl in his first season with the Ravens, as he led the Ravens with 1,207 yards rushing. However, McGahee who started 15 games in 2007 never started more than eight games following the firing of then Ravens head coach Brian Billick after the ’07 season.

The Ravens brought in John Harbaugh to replace Billick and after starting eight games in ’08 during Harbaugh’s rookie season, McGahe had started just three games since.

For reasons unknown to many, he has never been able to click with Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. McGahee carried the ball just 100 times last season for just 380 yards—both career lows. 

Larry French/Getty Images Despite the drops in carries and yards during the past three seasons, McGahee was a major contributor in a very limited role in the Ravens offense. The former first-round pick from the University of Miami scored 17 rushing touchdowns and chipped in with three more receiving.

So now that McGahee knows he will not be in Baltimore as a Raven this season, what is next for him? There is plenty of interest in the former Bills, and as of Thursday, Ravens running back.

According to published reports, the Denver Broncos are very interested in McGahee’s services. In a story written by Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the Broncos may be ready to pursue him. McGahee has a friendly relationship with Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville.

Studesville, who served in the same capacity in Buffalo while McGahee was there, enjoyed a good working relationship with the running back. according to the article by Klis, if the Broncos do go with McGahee, he would likely be the 1B back to Knowshon Moreno.

McGahee’s trade to the Ravens was considered an ugly divorce from Buffalo. The Bills and their head coach at the time, Dick Jauron, were disappointed in McGahee for conducting most of his offseason workouts in his native Miami, rather than traveling to the team’s Orchard Park headquarters.

McGahee also burned a few bridges in Buffalo when he was quoted in a magazine article suggesting the NFL consider moving the Bills to Toronto, a comment he later said was taken out of context. 

How McGahee fell out of favor in Baltimore is unclear. He was a good teammate and did what was asked of him while supporting the younger Ray Rice. He did so relatively quietly considering the reputation he brought with him from upstate new York.

The New England Patriots have also surfaced as a suitor in published articles.

Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe addressed the possibility of McGahee becoming a new England Patriot in an “Ask Shalise” segment for the Globe recently. McGahee and how he would fit into Bill Belichick‘s system, was addressed in an article by the Bleacher Report’s very own, Aaron Dodge.

McGahee still has a lot to offer many NFL teams. As it was earlier in his career, McGahee’s health is not a concern. at 29 years old, McGahee has some tread left on his radials. He has rested the last two years standing on the sidelines backing up Rice in Baltimore.

After averaging 291 attempts for the first four years of his career, McGahee has averaged just 126 carries in each of the last three seasons.

He can catch the ball out of the backfield and has proved the last two seasons in Baltimore that he is more than capable of being the go to guy in the red zone.

During this two-year stretch, McGahee had 17 rushing touchdowns with 13 of them coming inside the 10-yard line. his ability to find the gaps has not eluded him. McGahee’s’ other four TD’s came from 77, 30, 19 and 15 yards. 

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Wherever McGahee plays this season, he will be a good acquisition. That is of course if Willis continues to be a good teammate and work hard in practice and the locker room.

The Ravens wanted to keep McGahee, they really did. Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh know how valuable he has been to them over the past three seasons with limited playing time. However, with Drew Rosenhaus as his agent, a pay cut was not likely going to happen.

McGahee was not going to beat out Ray Rice and the Ravens will not pay him $6 million to stand on the sidelines. McGahee feels he can still be a No. 1 back in the NFL and he may be right. Although he no longer possesses the speed of his youth, he is a smart back as well as a rested one.

I hope that the Ravens will at least use some of the money they saved on McGahee, Todd Heap, Derrick Mason and Kelly Gregg to re-sign full back LeRon McClain.

It may be a difficult chore to win the AFC with only one returning back, especially when one, and possibly two, departing backs played such a large role in the offense.

Make no mistake Ravens fans: love him or hate him, Willis McGahee played a big role for the Ravens and he will be missed.

Baltimore Ravens: Willis McGahee, What’s Next for Aging Running Back

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