With the free agent market at running back lacking quality, the Detroit Lions moved quickly to address their need at the position, agreeing to terms with former Dolphin Reggie Bush.
Reports indicate that Bush will sign a four-year deal worth $16 million.
Detroit’s interest in Bush comes as no surprise to league observers, as the team had shown plenty of signs that it had given up on former second-round pick Jahvid Best due to his history of concussions and their need to add playmaking ability at the running back position.
Arguably the most talented running back available in free agency, Bush will assume the starter’s role in Detroit ahead of Mikel Leshoure, who had a disappointing sophomore campaign after missing all of his rookie season due to an Achilles tendon tear.
After five largely disappointing and injury-plagued seasons in New Orleans, Bush joined Miami prior to the 2011 season and topped 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career. In 2012, he played in all 16 games for the first time since 2006, finishing just shy of consecutive 1000-yard seasons with 986 rushing yards.
In Miami, Bush finished 2011 as the 12th-ranked fantasy running back, dropping a couple of notches to 14th this past season as he clearly established himself as a quality lead runner for the first time in his career. Those were impressive feats given his previous production in New Orleans coupled with the lack of playmakers and questionable quarterback play in Miami.
The Lions clearly don’t have the offensive issues that Bush had to deal with in Miami. With Calvin Johnson lining up out wide and strong-armed Matthew Stafford at quarterback, opposing defenses will have to pick their poison, and it is safe to assume they will choose to double cover Johnson rather than Bush.
That should translate into Bush facing fewer eight-man fronts, as well as having plenty of open space in the passing game. It should be noted that he hasn’t topped 45 receptions since the 2009 season and failed to reach 300 receiving yards in each of the last three years.
Expect those trends to change in 2013 given the Lions reliance on their running backs in the passing game. Bush should approach 1,000 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards provided he remains healthy. Throw in seven or eight touchdowns and he would rate as a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 in 2013.
If you’re looking for red flags, there are a couple. First off, Leshoure is a solid short-yardage back and Joique Bell isn’t a slouch in that area either. Their presence will cut down on Bush’s looks inside the 5-yard line. Secondly, Bush’s injury history can’t be ignored (20 missed games during his tenure in New Orleans), although he did miss just one game during his two-year stay with Miami.
Given Bush’s solid upside and recent run of good health, fantasy owners should feel comfortable drafting him as an upper tier RB2 in 2013.