Money Matters: Halfback

RB Edgerrin James (Otto Greule/Getty)

Edgerrin James is the second-highest paid running back in the NFL, making $7 million per year. Yet the Cardinals finished last season as the league's fourth-worst rushing team. What can the Cardinals do to get more bang for their buck?

Edgerrin James finished last season with 1,222 yards rushing, his fifth consecutive season of quadruple digits. However, his per-carry average was a modest 3.8 yards.

James makes more money than every running back except for LaDainian Tomlinson ($7,066,666). Both have seven 1,100-yard seasons under their belts, but LT has delivered in a more spectacular fashion.

James, 29, is just one year older than Tomlinson, but Edge appears to be maturing at a quicker pace. James' wheels are still greased and ready to go, but he lacks the explosion of his younger years. He has only four carries of 20-plus yards in his two seasons in the desert.

The Cardinals are looking for someone who can go the distance and may have found their man on the West Coast.

The Cardinals are already emulating the Chargers' 3-4 scheme on defense and could look San Diego's direction for offensive guidance, as well. Tomlinson's backup, Michael Turner, is a viable option for the No. 2 role in Arizona.

Turner merits a long look from GM Rod Graves this offseason. Just look at Turner's numbers in San Diego compared to James' stats in Arizona. Turner's per-carry average is nearly 2 yards better, 5.5 to 3.6.

Turner averages one run of 20-plus yards every 19 carries. Since moving to Arizona, James averages a run of 20-plus yards every 165 carries. Additionally, Turner has at least one carry of 70-plus yards each of the last three seasons. James has not had a run longer than 43 yards since his rookie season in 1999.

Turner has been waiting patiently for a team to give him at least 100 carries in a season for the first time in his career. That could happen in Arizona, where current backups Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington have been disappointments.

Ken Whisenhunt vows for an equal pass-run ratio in 2008. Turner would certainly help bring that ambition to fruition. Turner is bigger, stronger and faster than James, and could be had for almost half the price.

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications.

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