Free-agent review: Toby Gerhart

An examination of the Jaguars’ additions in free agency.

RB Toby Gerhart

Contract details: Gerhart signed a three-year deal worth $10.5 million ($4.5 million guaranteed). He received a $3 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year (March 15) and his base salary of $1 million is guaranteed this year. His base salary in 2015 is $2.5 million and he will receive a $500,000 roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year (guaranteed in case of injury). His base salary in 2016 is $3 million and he will receive a $500,000 roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year.

What’s to like: Gerhart is exactly what the Jaguars wanted in a free-agent running back. He’s young (he turns 27 on Friday) with low mileage (276 carries) in his first five seasons in the NFL. At 6-foot and 231 pounds, Gerhart is a physical, between-the-tackles runner who can give the Jaguars positive yardage on first down. That’s where the running game was particularly ineffective last season, averaging just 3.4 yards per rush on first down. That was the third-lowest total in the league.

What’s concerning: Gerhart has never been a feature back because he spent his entire career backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, so there is some question about whether he can fit into that role. He was a workhorse at Stanford, rushing for 3,522 yards and 44 touchdowns, including 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior in 2009. Can he be as effective as a lead runner?

From ESPN Vikings reporter Ben Goessling: “Gerhart languished behind Adrian Peterson in Minnesota and was anxious to show what he could do if given a bigger role. He talked on several occasions last year about how he was probably auditioning for another team, and performances like the one he put on in Green Bay, when Gerhart ran for 91 yards on eight carries, showed what he's capable of.

“Gerhart played well toward the end of the season, when Peterson was dealing with groin and foot injuries, and has been a productive third-down back for the Vikings for several seasons. He's a good between-the-tackles runner, and isn't afraid of contact.”