Going, Going, Gone? RB Dominic Rhodes

So far, Dominic Rhodes has visited the New York Giants, but he'll be on the road checking out more opportunities this month. Jerry Langton provides his analysis of Rhodes' future with the Colts in this ColtPower Insiders feature.

Dominic Rhodes, RB

2006 regular-season stats: 187-641-5 rushing, 36-251-0 receiving, 2/2 fumbles/lost

2006 playoff stats: 62-308-1 rushing, 7-70-0 receiving, 1/0 fumbles/lost

The player: Colts fans will always remember Dominic Rhodes, not just for his great Super Bowl XLI performance, but for his 2001 rookie season in which he filled in for an injured Edgerrin James and rushed for 1104 yards and 9 touchdowns. Those were impressive numbers for anyone, but absolutely startling when they came from an undrafted rookie out of a college nobody ever heard of. But what the fans forget (that the Colts didn't) is that from 2002 to 2005 he rushed for 529 yards (an average of just 132.25 per season). In 2006, he had something of a renaissance after James signed with Arizona. Rhodes rushed for 641 yards and 5 touchdowns, which would be good if he was still a No. 2 back, but he started 16 of 16 regular-season games and was outrushed by his nominal backup — first-round pick Joseph Addai (1,081). Addai also started all four playoff games.

(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Rhodes is special as a runner. As evidenced by his 113-yard performance in the Super Bowl (Addai had 77), Rhodes can still use his speed to turn the corner and his surprising strength to force his way up the middle. He can slip through the tiniest hole and shake would-be tacklers off with spins, shudders and straight-arms. He's explosive in his cuts and changes direction, even after a 2002 ACL tear, exceedingly well. He's not that decisive, though, and can be caught behind the line of scrimmage (once every 9.35 carries in 2006, as opposed to Addai's once every 12.56) while looking for someplace to go. While not fumble-prone, Rhodes doesn't have the strongest hands in the world and will occasionally lose fights for the ball.

Although he runs good routes and can be dangerous with the ball in his hands, Rhodes is not a natural receiver and can drop some heart-breakingly easy passes. His blocking isn't an afterthought as it is with so many small backs, but he's very accomplished in the area, mostly due to his size.

What Rhodes can do well, though, is return kicks. He has a 23.6-yard career average and two touchdown bringing back kick offs and his natural abilities well suit the task.

He has had some trouble with the law, including an alleged drunk driving citation in February and a domestic battery arrest in 2002, which led to counseling.

Should he stay or should he go: Rhodes is in an odd but increasingly common situation. Neither a No. 1 or No. 2 back, he's more of a No. 1A. Many teams, especially successful ones like both Super Bowl entrants, have stopped working one back to early retirement and started using a tandem approach. Rhodes fits the role he has acquired with the Colts very well. But there are other concerns about him and they primarily come down to money. In 2005 Rhodes signed a $4.75 million, two-year contract to be James' backup and potential successor. That's a lot of money to pay a guy who won't wrest the No. 1 job away from Addai. And backs who run for more than 100 yards against the Chicago Bears defense in the Super Bowl will win a lot of fans around the league and that could lead to a big payday.

While I don't think too many teams would like to acquire Rhodes to be their No. 1 guy because of his age and limitations, there are many with lots of money to spend on a No. 2. The 49ers could use a solid back to alternate with Frank Gore — and they're $37.5 million under the cap. This is not a strong year for backs in free agency or the draft. He'll likely get a big-money offer somewhere and the Colts will be hard-pressed to match.

While the Colts would certainly welcome Rhodes back, I'm not sure they can afford him. Actually, I'm sure they can't.

Who'd replace him: Although Addai will definitely be the Colts' primary ball-carrier next season, they will need to get him some help. With Rhodes and veteran No. 3 James Mungro both UFAs, the primary options on the roster are DeDe Dorsey and Kenton Keith. While each of them shows great open-field potential, they are both undersized and unproven. Keith has put up some outstanding numbers in the CFL, but has also had a problem with fumbling.

New candidates will probably come from the middle of the draft. Colts president Bill Polian has indicated a desire for a bigger back and is said to like Fresno State's Dwayne Wright, a solid citizen, tough straight-line runner, good receiver and punishing blocker. A dearth of other options in the draft could push him into the third round.

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