The Browns ran the ball 30 times per game last season. Save quarterback, no one will have more chances to make plays next season than these two.
But left tackle Joe Thomas' inclination is right. He suggested during the season the team should sign another running back for depth, preferably a veteran. West and Crowell averaged a combined 4.0 yards per carry last season (1,280 yards on 319 attempts). The Browns could use an alternative in case those two struggle, preferably one with more speed than Ben Tate had. Browns coaches say they like Glenn Winston, but he didn’t touch the ball last season. Seldom-used Shaun Draughn signed an exclusive rights deal to stay with the team.
The free-agent tailback pool is shallow, but here are three players the Browns could sign for depth without disrupting the development of West and Crowell.
No Peyton Hillis here.
Stevan Ridley: The 5-foot-11, 220-pound back can take his time in free agency -- he might be more valuable in the summer, when the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in October has healed. Ridley flashed in 2012 with 1,263 yards on 290 carries. That’s a lot of trust from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who goes through running backs like paper towels.
Ridley's production dipped to 3.6 yards per carry last season, but he was fresh off a 27-carry, 113-yard performance the week before the injury. This late in free agency, with an injured player, the Browns could get good value, though they hadn’t inquired about the former Patriot as of last week.
Knowshon Moreno: After signing a one-year, $3.275 million deal last offseason, Moreno led all backs in Week 1 rushing with 134 yards for the Dolphins before injuries derailed his season. The Browns probably could get Moreno for half that amount as he recovers from an ACL tear. Moreno is still only 27 and has nearly 1,200 yards in his past 17 full games.
Cedric Peerman: The 5-10 Peerman, a former Bengal, has good speed, is a special teams standout (15 tackles last season) and averaged 7.2 yards per carry in 2012 (36 carries, 258 yards in 14 games), the only season he had more than 15 carries. Peerman would be strictly a depth signing, but this is a change-of-pace, affordable option in a relatively weak running back group.