Arian Foster is scheduled to visit the Detroit Lions this week. While Foster is a big name who would engender fan excitement, he would mostly be a flier for a team searching for anything to improve its running game.
Foster will turn 30 in August, which is the typical demarcation line of steep decline for running backs not named Adrian Peterson. Foster has had his injury issues -- his last full season came in 2012, and he’s coming off a torn Achilles -- so signing him becomes even more of a question.
But considering that all of the running backs on Detroit's roster have questions, it doesn't hurt to bring him in for a visit. Just don't expect the Foster who dominated for the Texans.
Statistically, Foster would become the best back on Detroit’s roster if he signed, having rushed for over 1,000 yards four times -- most recently in 2014 when he had 1,246 yards and eight touchdowns. He also has averaged over 4 yards per carry every year of his career before last season, when he dropped to 2.59 YPC in the four games before his Achilles injury.
He also could provide a mentor to an otherwise young Lions running back group, with second-year pro Ameer Abdullah expected to be the starter and only Stevan Ridley with five or more years of experience in the group.
That the Lions are investigating Foster, though, is more of a concern about the potential health of those two players. Ridley was out in the spring with an undisclosed injury, and it isn’t entirely clear when he is expected to return. He was signed during free agency as a potential power back to compete with Zach Zenner and hasn’t done much so far.
Then there’s Abdullah. He didn’t practice at all this spring, recovering from labrum surgery. Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he expects Abdullah to be ready for training camp, but if he’s not, the Lions have to have another option at running back besides Theo Riddick, who is primarily a pass-catcher.
Those would be the two players most affected and pushed the most by a potential Foster signing. Riddick’s role is very different from Foster’s, and those competing for a possible No. 4 running back slot (Zenner, George Winn, Dwayne Washington) are going to have to be bigger contributors on special teams.
That is not something the Lions would bring in a back like Foster for. The Lions would be bringing in Foster in hopes that he would be defying the way running backs have typically trended the past few years and that he would still be able to contribute to an offense desperate for an improved running game.
The question is whether Foster has enough left to be able to contribute.