Bears backup running back Adrian Peterson is not well. According to ESPN Chicago, a knee sprain is afflicting Peterson, who is currently the Bears' third-string running back and one of its best special teams players.
In the meantime, Kevin Jones, the former second-string running back, is still on injured reserve. That gives the Bears two running backs, Matt Forte and Garrett Wolfe. Both are good, but if one is injured -- and this assumes Peterson's knee injury doesn't heal quickly -- that gives the Bears precisely one running back. And you know what that means: free agency time! What are the Bears options?
There are a few. (Glad you asked!) A quick perusal of the 2009 running back free agents list reveals a few backs that are not only available, but productive some time in the recent past. A sampling:
• DeShaun Foster: Foster was a nominally productive running back for the Carolina Panthers before getting lost in the DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart fray. Foster never quite lived up to the potential he showed at UCLA, and he might not be the best fight for a third-string-and-special-teams sort of role, but it's hard to deny the talent there.
• Rudi Johnson: Not too long ago, fantasy football owners spent early round picks on Johnson. He was the star running back in Cincinatti's resurgent offense. Now, he's a Detroit Lions cast-off. Johnson isn't a spring chicken, and his actual rushing talent has probably been totally tapped, but someone with experience who can block and make a few catches out of the backfield wouldn't be the worst addition in the world.
• Deuce McAllister: We'll be honest. We had to do a quick double-take when we saw McAllister on the active free agents list. Really? Deuce McAllister? He's hurt or something, right? Nope: The Saints got rid of him for salary cap purposes, and McAllister's current pro prospects are primarily focused on Europe. Maybe NFL teams know something we don't (OK, probably) but still, for a third-string flyer, it'd be nice to have McAllister's bruising abilities on offense, wouldn't it?
• A few others worthy of recommendation: Selvin Young, Kenny Watson, Aaron Stecker, Michael Pittman, Dominic Rhodes, Patrick Pass, Chris Perry, Nick Goings. Barring some sort of injury or ongoing fatness-related issues -- hey, when you're not in season, it's always the offseason -- any one of the former could be a pretty decent third RB option for the Bears. Hopefully Adrian Peterson makes a full recovery and is able to play in two weeks. But if not, the Bears have no need for panic.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.