What a strange career Sony Michel has had so far in the NFL. Through four seasons, the now-Los Angeles Rams RB has the chance to walk away with two Super Bowl rings, despite being much-maligned at times. With mixed results, what should we expect in terms of a market for Michel this offseason, and where might his potential landing spots be?
Sony Michel’s landing spots
Michel’s career numbers are very much mixed. In four years, he has topped 200 carries three times, averaged over 750 rushing yards per season, and has scored 20 total touchdowns. Those numbers are not blow-you-away type statistics, but they do indicate that there is underlying talent. If the price is right, teams might very well be willing to gamble on that talent.
In a four-game stretch this season between Weeks 13 and 16, Michel took his opportunity and demonstrated what he could do. During those four games, he carried the ball 89 times for 423 yards at 4.75 yards per carry. He struggled to find the same consistency in the final couple of weeks and was put into a secondary role behind the returning Cam Akers.
That pretty much describes what Michel is as an NFL running back right now. He is a backup capable of stepping up and leading a team when called upon in short stretches. However, his work in the receiving game is a concern. Michel has just a 64.4% career catch rate with 386 yards on 73 targets. That limits his value to any team when it comes to being a three-down back.
That lack of ability to be every-down RB is why Spotrac has Michel projected for just $10 million across two years as a free agent. While that is not a bad deal by any means, it does show what the issue is for Michel. He’s a talented back, but his versatility is limited, making him just a potential role player rather than a featured option. Let’s take a look at which teams might be looking for that type of RB.
Could Michel be a fit with the Miami Dolphins under their new head coach?
We know that Mike McDaniel comes from a team that is built around running the ball. In his opening press conferences as the Dolphins head coach, McDaniel spoke about his desire to build an offense through an extensive run game. But whether Miami has the running backs to do that is questionable. Myles Gaskin is an intriguing option but might be more suited to a secondary role as a pass catcher out of the backfield.
Therefore, unless the Dolphins bring back Duke Johnson (who impressed in his late-season stint), they need a “hammer” to lead the backfield. Michel could fit that role. He can catch well enough to be serviceable and has proven in stretches how effective he is running the ball. Michel could relieve some of the pressure on Tua Tagovailoa heading into 2022.
The Denver Broncos could look for another veteran to partner with Javonte Williams
How the Broncos approach this offseason is intriguing. With Melvin Gordon set to be a free agent, Denver has a choice to make. Do they hand the run game over to Javonte Williams and bring in some support pieces around him? Do they run it back with Gordon and Williams? Or do they add another veteran to handle a 65-35 split with Williams?
Michel could fit that need nicely. The general instinct is that Gordon will command more on the open market than Michel. However, Spotrac has them valued somewhat similarly. If that is the case, the Broncos should consider running it back with Gordon. Although, if Michel comes at around 75-80% of the cost of Gordon, then he becomes the more viable option to partner with Williams.
Michel could provide the “muscle” alongside Austin Ekeler for the Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have an intriguing stable of backs, but beyond Austin Ekeler, there are clear voids in talent. Michel could be utilized as the hammer-type back in short-yardage or goal-line situations. He could also spell Ekeler at times, or allow the shifty running back to line up in the slot and present different looks to opponents.
Whether Michel is a big upgrade over Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree III is debatable. Nevertheless, the Chargers have the cap space to add a veteran like Michel without worrying too much if they feel he adds even a relatively small amount of value. Reducing the number of hits Ekeler takes in short-yardage and goal-line situations is as good of a reason as you might need for adding a player like Michel.
The San Francisco 49ers might look to add a veteran RB at a relatively inexpensive price
The 49ers have three young backs under contract in Elijah Mitchell, JaMycal Hasty, and Trey Sermon. However, veterans Jeff Wilson Jr., Raheem Mostert, and Trenton Cannon are each set to be free agents. The question is whether the 49ers want to roll into next season with three young backs leading the group. If not, Michel might be a better option than bringing back a player like Mostert or Wilson.
Michel has played 55 games out of a possible 65 in his four-year NFL career. Meanwhile, injuries have kept Mostert out of all but nine games across the past two seasons. Those injury concerns could be enough to have the 49ers look away from Mostert as their veteran back. Michel could come in and provide that valuable backup role for the 49ers. It likely would not be his first choice. However, given an opportunity in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, he could set himself up to have a much higher value this time next year.