It’s been almost a year since Jay Ajayi took the field, but after an offseason of rehabilitation from a torn ACL, the former Pro Bowl running back is fully healthy and has informed all 32 NFL teams he’s ready to play, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The former Miami Dolphins star, who spent his most recent two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and helped the City of Brotherly Love capture its Super Bowl LII title, has battled multiple knee injuries in the past. But at age 26, with a 1,200-yard season and career 4.5 yards-per-carry average on his resume, who’s to say he couldn’t draw a look as an in-season upgrade for a team in need of depth?
Here are five teams that make the most sense for Ajayi early in 2019:
This makes way too much sense. Firstly, they’re familiar with Ajayi. Most of all, though, what they really need right now — as in right now — is a change-of-pace option to deploy alongside Wayne Gallman while Saquon Barkley nurses the ankle injury that could sideline him for as many as two months. As CBS Sports’ Dan Schneier notes, Ajayi’s specialty is breaking tackles, which could take some pressure off rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. Even if Barkley somehow returns sooner rather than later, what’s the downside in pairing him with a playmaker like Ajayi?
Josh Jacobs is central to Jon Gruden’s offense, yes, but the Raiders aren’t getting much of anything from the guys giving him what little relief he gets. Whether he’ll say it publicly or not, Gruden is probably increasingly aware that the more he puts the ball in Derek Carr’s hands on this iteration of the Raiders, the less likely Oakland is to stay alive in games — and this season. And 16 carries for 60 yards from DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard through three games is mediocre production from the backups.
It’s Aaron Jones‘ show in Green Bay, but he’s now had two straight games averaging fewer than two yards per carry. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for Matt LaFleur to bail, but if LaFleur is serious about sticking to the ground game, well, he’s probably going to want more than sixth-rounder Dexter Williams to help Jones carry the load now that Jamaal Williams is sidelined. Ajayi, remember, doesn’t have to command a full workload. As a change-of-pace back, he’d simply expand their possibilities.
The Steelers have a pair of homegrown investments behind James Conner in their backfield, and both Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell have flashed athleticism with infrequent touches. But let’s be honest: Ajayi would be a clear upgrade over both of those guys as a pure RB complement to Conner. Heck, considering Ajayi’s health history, it’s not like Pittsburgh would be unable to keep Samuels and Snell involved in limited capacity even if they made a move. Mason Rudolph could use all the support he can get.
When you employ Alvin Kamara, you don’t really need any help at RB. That’s just the reality. But since Kamara is effectively the Saints’ entire offense in the wake of Drew Brees‘ injury, it’d be nice for Sean Payton to feel comfortable enough to give No. 41 a breather. And free-agent signing Latavius Murray, the replacement for Mark Ingram, has earned all of — *checks notes* — seven carries and nine yards the last two weeks. No lie: Ajayi and his restructured knee might be faster than Murray right now.