After trading Terrance West to the Tennessee Titans last week, it appears the Cleveland Browns are ramping up their efforts to add another running back to their stable. According to 92.3 The Fan afternoon co-host, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber, sources are telling him that Ball is likely to sign with the Browns at some point this week.
With just Isaiah Crowell and rookie Duke Johnson on the active roster, it seemed a matter of when and not if the Browns were going to add another back. Though many have focused on more veteran names like Pierre Thomas, Ahmad Bradshaw and others, Ball is actually more of an intriguing option than many think. Despite being waived by the Denver Broncos during the preseason after just two seasons with the team, a healthy and motivated Ball could be quite the addition to the Browns backfield.
Ball was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin, and he went on to rush 175 times for 731 yards and five touchdowns in 21 games for the Broncos. He also caught 40 passes for 207 yards, showing some versatility as a pass catcher out of the backfield as well. However, a hamstring injury in 2014 derailed his career in Denver, as reports came out that he lost explosiveness due to the injury.
Prior to arriving in the NFL, Ball was one of the most hyped running back prospects in all of college football in the run-heavy Wisconsin offensive attack. In four seasons with the Badgers, Ball racked up 5,140 yards and 77 touchdowns on 924 carries—adding an additional six touchdowns and 598 yards with 59 receptions. But the bulk of that work came during his junior and senior seasons, which saw him rush for 307 and 356 times in 2011 and 2012. To put it simply, Ball came in the league with a lot of tread on his tires.
Following college, Ball would post a 4.6 40-yard dash time which caused many draft pundits to continue to question his speed and acceleration. When you watch him on film, you see a pure power runner who is a very good fit for the zone running scheme the Cleveland Browns currently use. In fact, he is seemingly the anti-West, as he is a very decisive runner with good vision who isn’t afraid to stay behind his blockers and run downhill.
For a runner like Ball, he is the type of guy who is not going to hit homeruns for you in the running game. Instead, he is a grind it out runner who is more of a volume guy. He averaged 5.6 yards in college, and averaged 4.7 during his rookie season in Denver (120 carries for 559 yards).
The biggest question Ray Farmer and the Cleveland Browns need to answer before signing Ball would be—is he healthy? If healthy, this would be the epitome of a low risk, high reward signing on the open market. Inking a former second-round running back who is motivated to prove he belongs in the league could end up being a major coup for Farmer and the Browns. And if Ball is still slow and the injury lingers, you made a minimal investment to bring him in.
When you look at the lack of action in terms of bringing in some of the veterans on the open market, it seems the Browns have a certain type of back in mind for their offense. West was drafted to be the “one cut and go” type of runner perfect for a zone scheme, but never panned out due to his willingness to channel his inner Trent Richardson by dancing and bouncing it outside all the time.
So, while many—including this writer—have been begging the Browns to go out and snag a guy like the aforementioned Thomas, it could be a “between the tackles” type like Ball the Browns have been waiting to become available. And if the Montee Ball from college and his rookie year in Denver shows up, not only will Browns fans be saying “Terrance who,” they just may be saying “Ray I’m sorry for doubting you” too.