Colts Backfield Gets Even More Crowded

The Indianapolis Colts have reportedly signed Dominic Rhodes to a one-year contract, adding to an already crowded backfield situation in Indianapolis. Can Rhodes and Joseph Addai regain their potent 1-2 punch, or will one of the team's other backs step up into the spotlight?

According to the Indianapolis Star, the Colts have signed running back Dominic Rhodes to a one-year deal worth about $650,000. Rhodes was released by the Oakland Raiders after the team drafted Darren McFadden with the fourth pick in last month's NFL Draft.

Rhodes began his career with the Colts and rushed for 1,104 yards during his rookie season, which is still his best season to date.

He played six years with the Colts, but is best remembered by fans for the crucial role he played in the team's run to the Super Bowl XLI title following the 2006 season.

Rhodes takes a handoff from Peyton Manning during the 2006 playoffs
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Rhodes started all 16 games for the Colts in 2006, but shared carries with then-rookie Joseph Addai and gained 641 yards and scored five touchdowns.

It was in the playoffs, however, that Rhodes' straight-forward, hard-running style became most effective.

With the Colts' pass offense struggling and Addai in the starting lineup at running back, Rhodes came off the bench in playoff wins over Kansas City, Baltimore, New England and Chicago, leading the team with 306 yards and averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

In Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears, Rhodes rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown, and many felt he, not Peyton Manning, should have been the game's MVP.

Rhodes entered free agency after the Super Bowl, and, after a drunk-driving arrest on I-465 in Indianapolis, signed with Oakland.

But after serving a four-game suspension to start the 2007 season, Rhodes got lost in the shuffle of the Raiders' backfield and ended the season with just 302 yards — 237 of which came in the Raiders' final two games of a 4-12 season.

Certainly, Rhodes is familiar with the Colts' offense and would be a good fit in Indianapolis — he's already proven that. And at 29 years old, he is a relatively low-mileage back, since he has never been a "workhorse" ballcarrier, except for his rookie year, when Edgerrin James was injured.

There is the question of why the Raiders didn't use him more. If they felt confident enough in him to sign him to a $7.5 million contract, why didn't they decide to follow through on their investment?

Dominic Rhodes with the Raiders in 2007
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

That may speak more to the way things are done in Oakland than Rhodes' current running ability — after all, it was just over 15 months ago that he was plowing through the Bears in Miami.

What the acquisition of Rhodes does do for the team is make a very interesting running back situation heading into the 2008 season. Addai is clearly the No. 1, but Rhodes, Kenton Keith, Mike Hart, Clifton Dawson and Chad Simpson will all be vying for playing time, as well.

It's made what figured to be a very competitive situation even tougher. Ideally, Addai and Rhodes can go back to being the effective duo they were in the 2006 postseason, and if they can do that, what the other backs do might not matter.

But Keith was very capable in a backup role last season, and Hart has impressed the front office, who compared him to James Mungro, another former Colts backup. The team also likes the promise of Dawson, and Simpson brings potential, if not a complete game, to the team.

At any rate, the Colts have a large group of players who can carry the ball, and the competition for playing time will be fierce. It may come down to the back that can show the most skills in other parts of the game, like blocking and receiving, that sees the most field time.

In that case, Rhodes has a clear edge on the field. but one thing's for sure — when a position is this crowded with quality and potential, the best players are going to end up playing, even if we're not sure who they are yet.

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