Winning football games in the NFL is not an easy thing to do without a steady halfback. The Giants learned that the hard way when they dropped their first six contests of the season on the way to a disappointing 7-9 finish. A big difference between the disastrous first six games and the mildly successful final 10 was an improvement in the running game.
After David Wilson struggled to prove he was capable of being a full-time player and eventually got hurt, the Giants toyed around with Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis before finally settling on Andre Brown as the primary ball carrier. With only Wilson and rising sophomore Michael Cox under contract for next season, the Giants could become players in the running back free agent market. Here's a handful of players they could be targeting.
Tate will turn 26 years old this August, and thanks to the presence of Arian Foster ahead of him on Houston's depth chart, he doesn't have a lot of tread on his tires. Still, Tate has had plenty of opportunity to show what he can do as a lead back, as Foster has what is far from a perfect health record. This past season, Tate's third in the NFL, he rushed for 771 yards (4.3 per carry) and four touchdowns. He's a threat in both the rushing and passing games and could demand a high salary from teams thinking he can be a breakout star in 2014.
Andre Brown, New York Giants
Although he missed the first eight games of the season with a broken leg, Brown showed the Giants that he can be a dependable ball carrier in 2013. In his first game of the season, he rushed 30 times in a win over Oakland, and was New York's number one back from that point forward. While other teams might steer clear of Brown this offseason because of his 3.5 yards per carry average and three fumbles in his last four games (in addition to injury issues), for the Giants he could at least be a reliable starter.
Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
Bell is a restricted free agent in 2014, but with the Detroit Lions already heavily invested in halfback Reggie Bush and wide receiver Calvin Johnson, it would be very tough for them to match any significant offer that Bell receives. Just like Tate, Bell is a backup looking to break into a starting role, and he's shown great potential during his NFL career as both a rusher and a pass-catcher. In 2013 he ran for 650 yards (3.9 per carry) while catching 53 passes for 547 yards. If the new Giants offensive coordinator is someone who values his halfback as part of the passing game, Bell could become a prime target for New York.
Who says you can't go home? Bradshaw was off to a good start with the Colts in 2013 before hurting his neck and missing the final 13 games of the season. Missing that much time is never good for a player looking for a contract the next season, and the Giants may now be able to afford Bradshaw after taking a pass on him a year ago. His neck and foot problems will scare some teams away, but Bradshaw could have one or two good seasons left at age 28. With the Giants from 2007 to 2012, he played in at least 12 games every year and had a yards-per-carry average of at least 4.5 in five of six campaigns.