Apparently summer school in the NFL is not over for a few upper classman. We recently learned that Randy has no intention of letting any "moss" grow on his "rocky" career (ha-ha…puns) and that T.O. is hosting indoor football clinics against the likes of the "Reading Express" and the "Nebraska Danger" to show he's still got game and now Clinton Portis wants to resurrect from the Lazarus Pit he's been shvitzing in for the last year. If the rumors of Randy still running a 40 in the 4.3(s) are true, there will be a few teams that will take the risk and if T.O. still has the hands and speed that made him a 6x Pro Bowler why wouldn't a team pay the league minimum for one year to see what happens. It is Clinton Portis that intrigues me the most because my last memory of him was reuniting with Shanahan, getting hurt after 5 games and then being released.
If Portis is serious about returning, he should crash the Combine and partake in a few drills (wouldn't it be awesome if we could end Combine commentary of "This kid looks like a young blah blah blah" by having a day where rookies went head-to-head against vets to actually end speculation). In reality, Drew Rosenhaus will set up a few pro-day workouts for Clinton with the hopes that someone will roll the dice on his return. You figure 1 of the NFL's 32 teams will realize he's 76 yds. shy of the 10,000 yard mark and had a solid year to rest his body.
3 Potential Destinations for Clinton Portis
New England Patriots – Most expect New England to place the franchise tag on Wes Welker which means that BenJarvus Green-Ellis will have to negotiate his way to stay in Foxboro. The Law Firm definitely earned his 2011 1 year $1.8M contract by scoring 11 Touchdowns (6th place among running backs) and extending his record of never fumbling, but will be looking for more money and a longer deal in 2012. It wouldn't be surprising if New England let BJGE walk and Belichick took a chance on Clinton Portis. Belichick is known for giving 2nd and 3rd chances to players that other teams have discarded and adding Portis to a young backfield would bring that experience and a change of pace rotation for players like Ridley, Vereen and Woodhead. Portis needs a landing spot that won't require him to be a workhorse, but can exploit his quickness when needed. This would be a cost effective alternative to resigning BJGE and would add another year for Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen to develop into featured backs.
San Diego Chargers – The Chargers have an interesting situation in regards to their backfield. Ryan Mathews finished Top 10 in rushing yards last year, but still missed 2 games due to injury. Tolbert has been a great compliment to Mathews (2010 is a perfect example), but the spread between tagging him (around $7.7M) or signing him to a new deal is too wide -- especially for a back-up running back. San Diego should prepare for a scenario without Tolbert (which leaves a glaring holes in their backfield), but needs to find a replacement with enough talent to handle a larger role if Mathews does get hurt again. San Diego's realistic free agency options are Hillis, Green-Ellis and Benson, but beware they will all come at a higher cost and won't be open to being Mathews' back-up. This is where Portis fits in because he is a low risk, high reward alternative. Similar to my reasoning with New England, Portis will come with a low price tag but has the potential and skill to be one of the best back-up running backs in the game. Let's not forget he was a 1000+ yd. running back 6 of his 9 years in the NFL. Before you flag this reasoning as lunacy, go talk to Willis McGahee (who hadn't seen a thousand yard rushing season since 200,7 but amazed us this year with the desire and skill to be a starting RB at 30).
Baltimore Ravens – Word around campus is that Ricky Williams is planning retirement to a life of yoga and learning at the Miyagi School of Medicine which (if true) leaves a void that Baltimore cannot ignore. The Ravens are putting plenty of focus on making Ray Rice happy this off-season, but Ricky's potential absence could have serious downstream effects on him. How important is Ricky to Ray? Well, Rice finished the season 2nd in rushing yds. and 3rd in rushing TDs and achieved this by sharing a balanced workload with Williams. Rice (291) and Ricky (108) combined for 399 rushing attempts (roughly a 2:1 ratio), but could Rice repeat last year's performance if he was responsible for 400 carries? The answer is yes and no…YES, his talent and potential to post monster numbers is unquestioned but NO, his body would wear down quickly and any long term deal Baltimore is planning could literally be wasted away with one season ending injury. After the Ray Rice deal is ironed out, Baltimore's next priority should be finding him a talented back-up. Once again, Portis find himself in a unique position. If Baltimore sticks to the same game plan in 2012 and looks for a compliment to Rice that only has to carry the ball about 100 times all year, then there isn't a better guy than Portis. Plus I'm sure Bryant McKinnie, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis would love to have a fellow Cane on the team.
These scenarios are all based on Portis looking good in workouts and showing teams he's still has the heart and desire to be an asset (in any role) to a team willing to take the chance on him. I feel we've been surprised more often than not when older guys are given second chances or new opportunities to redefine themselves, so with that I wish Clinton the best of luck on making a comeback.