Christine Michael has cat-like quickness as a running back, but it’s his uncanny feline skill for finding new NFL lives that is his most noteworthy trait.
Michael signed with the Indianapolis Colts, the team announced on Thursday, to compete with Robert Turbin and 2017 fourth-rounder Marlon Mack as the backup to Frank Gore. In four NFL seasons — it feels like he has been in the league a decade at this point — Michael has 254 carries for 1,080 yards (4.3 avg.) and seven touchdowns, plus 26 receptions for 135 yards and one touchdown.
His career has taken some strange turns since the Seattle Seahawks used a second-round pick on Michael in 2013. He toiled behind Marshawn Lynch and Turbin for two seasons before being traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a conditional seventh-rounder prior to the 2015 season — only to be cut after five games there, interestingly, after the Cowboys signed Turbin.
Michael resurfaced at the end of the 2015 season with the Seahawks (after a month-long stint on the Washington Redskins‘ practice squad) when Lynch and Thomas Rawls were hurt and actually played well down the stretch, with a few big games including a 70-yard effort in the 10-9 playoff win in freezing temps over the Minnesota Vikings.
But the Seahawks once again parted ways with Michael midway through the 2016 season, and he was claimed by the Green Bay Packers, who were decimated by injuries in the backfield last season. The Packers signed him to a one-year deal this offseason but cut him a week after the draft when they took three backs.
Michael visited the New England Patriots this offseason but instead lands in a decent spot with the Colts, who can’t count on Gore forever and don’t know if Mack is ready yet. At this point, Michael’s reputation is greater than his actual value, but he doesn’t turn 27 until November and 11 of his 13 best rushing games have come in his past 18 regular-season contests.
That said, two good teams now have let him go in the past nine months, he had six games with 22 or fewer rush yards last season, isn’t a terribly well-rounded back and didn’t do much for the Packers in the playoffs last season after he was surpassed by converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery.
The Colts can use the competition, and it was worth the risk to bring him in on the cheap. But fantasy owners’ headaches return for a player who has gained a reputation for being remarkable one week and invisible the next.
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