With NFL teams required to trim their rosters to the 53-man limit on Friday, a few surprising names were released. On Friday, the Washington Redskins released RB Tim Hightower. Would the Detroit Lions be interested in adding him to the roster given their current situation at the running back position?
Currently, the Lions have only two completely healthy running backs on their roster to start the regular season, Keiland Williams and Joique Bell. Kevin Smith suffered an ankle injury last week while Jahvid Best‘s return date is unknown and Mikel Leshoure will start the season while serving a league imposed suspension.
The release of Hightower comes as somewhat of a surprise. Rehabbing in the offseason from an ACL injury he suffered last season, many pundits believed that the starting job in Washington was his to lose this season. He not only lost the starting role but he lost his roster spot as well. Hightower aggravated his knee at the start of training camp and only appeared in one game for the Redskins this preseason before his eventual release.
Several reports suggest that Hightower will not be ready to play at full speed for another month. Best has been moved to the PUP list and will be unavailable to return until after the first six weeks of the regular season. At this point, one has to wonder if Best will find his way back on to the football field at all for the remainder of his career.
Kevin Smith’s ankle injury will heal, but he also has serious injuries staying healthy.
The Lions front office admitted that they were looking to acquire a running back via trade but the team did not pull the trigger on a deal prior to cut down day. Other than Hightower, few veteran running backs which would be considered serviceable were released. RB Ryan Grant remains on the free agent market, but he has generated little to no interest from clubs this offseason.
When healthy, Hightower has a good burst. His best season came in 2010 with the Cardinals when he posted 736 yards on just 153 carries for a 4.8 yard per carry average. Hightower is also good at catching passes out of the backfield, recording 63 receptions in 2009.
Entering just his fifth season, Hightower has never carried the ball more than 153 times in a single season. He could likely be signed to an affordable contract and would provide a good insurance policy for the Lions in 2012 even if he still has to rest for a few more weeks. The other option for Detroit is to head into the season with a trio of unproven running backs.