Offseason Hunt: RB Michael Turner

The Chicago Bears had a miserable time running the football this season, but there is still some debate as to whether tailback or the offensive line was most responsible. Chicago native Michael Turner will be a hot commodity once he hits the free agent market, so could he be the answer?

Every day this week, BearReport.com will take a closer look at the free agent market and highlight some possible targets for the Bears in the offseason. Today we focus on San Diego running back Michael Turner ...

The skinny: Despite the fact that he has started a grand total of one game in four years playing behind former NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego's Michael Turner will likely be the most heavily coveted running back on the free agent market this offseason. At 5-10 and a sturdy 237 pounds, "The Burner" is averaging a whopping 5.5 yards per carry over the course of his career, gaining 1,257 yards on 228 attempts and scoring six touchdowns in 59 games. Turner showed once again this past Sunday why he's ready to be a featured back in this league, racking up 71 yards on 17 carries after Tomlinson injured his knee in a shocking win over the defending champion Colts.

The numbers: Tomlinson is arguably the most dynamic player in all of football, but Turner has still made a role for himself on offense for the Chargers and ran for 316 yards and a TD on 71 attempts in 2007. On the road against a 13-0 Indianapolis team in 2005, he sealed a San Diego upset with an 83-yard dash to paydirt in the fourth quarter. In just two seasons at Northern Illinois, he posted 3,563 yards rushing and scored 36 times while averaging 148.5 yards per game on the ground.


RB Michael Turner
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The pros: Has never sustained a major injury in the NFL, suiting up for at least 13 games in four seasons and all 16 contests twice. Also very accomplished on special teams, averaging 25.3 yards on 44 kick returns with a long of 58. Strong enough to endure punishment at the line of scrimmage, he still has the speed to outrun defenders in the open field. Just shy of his 26th birthday, he has relatively low mileage on his body and should be in his physical prime. Born in Waukegan and a graduate of North Chicago Community High School, returning to the Windy City would seem to make a lot of sense.

The cons: Still yet to show that he can handle the physical toll of being an every-down back over the course of a 16-game schedule. Never been much of a factor in the passing game, registering just 11 receptions for 71 yards with no touchdowns as a pro. Did most of his damage behind a very good San Diego offensive line, which features Pro Bowlers Nick Hardwick at center, Kris Dielman at guard, and Marcus McNeill at tackle.

The odds: Average at best. Everyone seems to think that GM Jerry Angelo is just going to open his wallet and give Turner anything he wants to return to his native Chicago, but remember he still has a lot invested in former first-round pick Cedric Benson. While Angelo did not speak very glowingly of Benson at his season-ending press conference, he simply said that there would be increased competition in the backfield come training camp – he never promised a new starter. If Turner ends up signing elsewhere, a change-of-pace like Dallas' Julius Jones or Oakland's Justin Fargas could provide that competition and won't cost nearly as much.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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