Jacksonville finished dead-last in the AFC South division this past season with a dismal 5-11 record. Yes, they were even behind the Houston Texans (8-8), though I believe Houston will make a playoff run next season. Taylor, the RB, has had an injury-ridden career in Jacksonville and a change of scenery will surely benefit not just Jacksonville, but Taylor as well. Taylor is due $6 million next season, so cutting him saves the Jags a lot of money. Maurice Jones-Drew is clearly the #1 guy in the Jags run game, so getting out of Jacksonville gives Taylor a chance to start somewhere else, though the chances of him being a full-time starter are extremely low.
When healthy, Taylor was a big threat every time he touched the ball, and he averaged 4.6 yards per carry in his 140 career games (11,271 career rushing yards on 2,428 attempts). Taylor seemed to be quite the underrated back in his NFL days, rushing for 1,000+ yards seven times and only reaching one career Pro Bowl (as a late injury replacement).
To tell you the truth, I think I know just the team he could thrive for. I’m going to go back to the whole Houston Texans talk from above, and say that Gary Kubiak needs to consider Taylor an option this year. They are one big move away from being a playoff team, and if they go for defensive players in the draft, and sign the 33-year old Taylor to a short-term deal, they could be a force to be reckoned with in the South. Obviously, second-year RB Steve Slaton will get a good amount of carries next season, but I’m worried he will struggle as an every-down back.
If Houston throws Taylor in there to mentor Slaton, and get a decent percent of carries..look out Colts and Titans! The moral to this story is, don’t count Fred Taylor out just because the Jaguars are done with him. The only problem with this is whether or not Taylor wants to continue to share carries on a new team next season. Other teams that could possibly take a stab at Taylor include Kansas City (LJ will be gone sometime this offseason), Denver and Detroit.
Kansas City Chiefs: Obviously, new head coach Todd Haley will be looking to throw Larry Johnson out of there. I mean, why wouldn't he? All Larry Johnson has done is hold the team back. But, after that what will Kansas City do? Signing Fred Taylor is one option for this team, who are currently in the re-building process, so on second thought, the chances of Kansas City signing him are much lower.
Denver Broncos: Denver is in dire need of a RB at this point, so I don't think signing a 33-year old would be a problem for them right now. Last year's leading rusher, Peyton Hillis (343 yards, 5 TD's on 68 carries), missed significant time towards the end of the regular season due to injury. Denver is looking for a true #1 guy, and Taylor has that ability. The only thing holding them back at this point is his prone to injury.
Detroit Lions: This is a long shot considering they drafted Kevin Smith in the third round last season (976 yards, 8 TD's as a rookie), but he could mentor Smith and take the role as a third-down back for him. Having two efficient runners would be a big plus for a team like Detroit, especially if you have a rookie QB (Detroit is projected to take QB Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick this year).
Prediction: Fred Taylor shares carries on a new team in 2009.