Fullbacks on the Market

The list of Fullbacks that will enter the free agent market is perhaps the best ever. Assuming the cast doesn't sign extensions before next March, the list will include: <br><br> Jon Ritchie (Oakland), Rob Konrad (Miami), Marc Edwards (New England), Mack Strong (Seattle), Lorenzo Neal (Cincinnati), Joel Makovicka (Arizona), Richie Anderson (Jets), Cecil Martin (Philadelphia), Stanley Pritchett (Chicago), and Olandis Gary (Denver).

The Top Tier

Jon Ritchie- Oakland

Ritchie, 6-1, 250 pounds, will not carry the ball at all. His job is to block, as defined by the bloody forehead that has become his trademark of a job well done. He had zero carries this year, but he relishes his role as the lead back. Ritchie is also charged with keeping defenders away from Rich Gannon in the passing game. He led the way for Charlie Garner (182-962 yards, 5. avg.) and Tyrone Wheatley (108-419 yards, 3.9 avg.). With so many weapons, he also is not asked to run many routes which resulted in a season that netted him 10 receptions.

Ritchie, 28, made over $525K last season. It would be sweet for the Chargers to nab a Raider and further deplete what the salary cap may do to their team. He is the tough aggressive player a Marty Schottenheimer coached team has made as its staple. He will get a raise and is perhaps one of the better options at fullback.

Rob Konrad- Miami

Konrad, 26, 6-3, 255 pounds, was the lead blocker for the league's best runner, Ricky Williams (383-1,853 yards, 4.8 avg.). He was in on the majority of snaps and made just over $500K last year. Konrad only had three carries so he is not a short yardage solution, but rather prefers to lead the way in short yardage. He also added 34 receptions and three touchdowns.

He should get a nice raise and well deserves the raise. He should be in high demand this offseason. He gets it done.

The Middle Tier

Marc Edwards- New England

Edwards, 6-0, 245 pounds, is a good short yardage runner. He had 31 rushes this past year and almost all came in third and short situations. He averaged 3.1 yards per carry. He also added 23 catches but is not a factor in the red zone. Edwards, 28, paved the way for Antowain Smith (252-982 yards, 3.9 avg.) and Kevin Faulk (52-271 yards, 5.2 avg.). He has proven to be versatile in the passing game as a pass protector and does a good job at the point of attack. Edwards made over $550K last season and should command a small raise on the open market.

Edwards would be a nice addition to the Chargers. He has not blocked for any great backs in recent years and is versatile enough to make a difference in the passing game.

Mack Strong- Seattle

Strong, 6-0, 245 pounds, is a veteran fullback who knows how to get the job done. At 31, he led the way for Shaun Alexander (295-1175 yards, 4.0 avg.). He also contributed 23 carries, most in short yardage situations. In addition, Strong had 22 catches and two touchdowns on the season.

Strong made over $650K last season and may price himself out of this "strong" market. He would be a nice addition as a player who relishes in his job and has done it well over the years.

Lorenzo Neal- Cincinnati

Neal, 5-11, 245 pounds, was voted to the AFC Pro Bowl despite being in on only about half the snaps during the season as a lead blocker for Corey Dillon (341-1,311 yards, 4.2 avg.). Neal made $700,000 and is a bit old at 32. Neal had just 9 carries on the year and added 21 receptions, but just one touchdown.

He may have come across the worst year to be a free agent fullback and word is he is seeking over $1 million. He will not get it.

Joel Makovicka- Arizona

Makovicka, 5-11, 251 pounds, helped young Marcel Shipp (188-834 yards, 4.4 avg.) turn the corner on the Arizona season. Makovicka was instrumental in the ground game as the passing game was a thing of the past with David Boston going down with an injury that cost him most of the season. With teams focusing on the run, Makovicka provided solid blocking. He added 15 catches and three touchdowns in the receiving game. Makovicka is a key member of the return team for the Cards and is the main blocker for the return wedge which helped MarTay Jenkins earn a 28.0 average on kickoff returns.

Makovicka, 27, earned just over 560K last season. He is a decent fullback on the rise and may be worth a look.

The Rest

Richie Anderson- NY Jets

Anderson, 6-2, 230 pounds, is not a true fullback. The Jets prefer to use single back sets and dual tight ends. Therefore, Anderson does not do a lot of blocking in the running game. He is however a standout receiver. He caught 45 passes this past season and made the Pro Bowl in 2000 with 88 receptions. Anderson made over $750K last season.

At 31, he does not fit the Chargers well. He would be a nice option to continue to give Drew Brees experience with his solid hands, but the money is best spent elsewhere.

Cecil Martin- Philadelphia

Martin, 6-0, 235 pounds, is another lead blocker who does not handle short yardage situations at all, something the Chargers need. He led the way for Duce Staley (269-1029 yards, 3.8 avg.) and was used sparingly as a receiver with 15 catches. Martin, 27, made just over $500K for the year.

He is not the bruiser that would make San Diego's running game the best in short yardage situations and will not be considered.

Stanley Pritchett- Chicago

Pritchett, 6-2, 250 pounds, has not been as consistent as a fullback as many others on this list. While his support in the form of his offensive line was weak last season, he still did not aid their cause as Chicago backs averaged just 3.5 yards per carry as a whole. Pritchett, 29, made a little over $550K for the year.

Pritchett does not help the Chargers in their running game and is not consistent enough in catching passes to be a factor in the possibility of a new fullback in San Diego.

Olandis Gary- Denver

Olandis Gary, 5-11, 218 pounds, is not the type of lead back the Chargers need. He is more of a running back who is being used as a fullback on occasion. Injuries have plagued his career since being a stalwart rookie in 1998 as the lead running back.

He is a little light to be used as a fullback and will not get consideration in San Diego. Gary made over $550K last season.

The Current

Fred McCrary is due $725K and LaDainian Tomlinson swears by him. He may not be worth the money and another option may prove to be beneficial to the Chargers who struggled in making third and ones, and third and twos. The lead blocker must be the source of that trouble as he should be taking that body that breaks through the line and giving the runner an extra yard of vision. That yard is ultimately the difference between a first down and a punting situation.

McCrary did a solid job in the short passing game grabbing 22 catches and three touchdowns, providing Drew Brees with a solid option out of the backfield.

Still the issue comes down to blocking, and McCrary in short yardage situations, did not get it done. The numbers for LaDainian Tomlinson (372-1683 yards, 4.5 avg.) are unbelievable, and Tomlinson will only get better. Is it a crime to want the best fullback available for our star player?

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