After releasing backup running back Willis McGahee, the Ravens took their time in trying to find a replacement for starter Ray Rice. Without a need for a stud like DeAngelo Williams or Ahmad Bradshaw, the Ravens stayed quiet during the first and second wave of free agency.
Their search ended when they agreed to a two-year deal with long-time Dolphins running back Ricky Williams on Monday. Williams was one of the better free agent running backs still on the market and he gives Baltimore an instant insurance policy should Rice miss time.
Even though Williams had been in a timeshare with Ronnie Brown in 2010, he still put up a respectable 4.2 yards per carry average and is only two years removed from a 1000-yard season back in 2009. Now with the Ravens, we don't expect Williams to see a lot of action with Rice commanding the backfield, but that doesn't mean there is absolutely zero fantasy value there.
In 2009 and 2010, McGahee rushed for a combined 17 touchdowns as Baltimore's goal-line back, the role Williams will likely take over. And even at 34, Williams doesn't have the wear-and-tear other running backs his age had because of his early retirement and his previous time shares.
Rice will still hold steady as a top-5 fantasy running back. In fact, when I redo my rankings on Wednesday, Rice likely won't budge from his No. 4 spot. He won't lose very many touches to Williams. But at the very least, Williams now becomes a must-have handcuff for all Rice owners. And in deeper leagues or larger leagues, like say 14-16 owners, Williams becomes a must have on his own in the off chance Rice does miss time this season. There is still fantasy value in Williams yet, even if he has passed his prime.