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How will Christine Michael impact the Colts’ running back position?

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NFL: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Indianapolis Colts made an interesting signing to add Christine Michael, a running back who has spent time with the Cowboys, Seahawks, and Packers during his NFL career.

Michael has appeared in 37 games, starting nine of them, and has rushed for 1,080 yards and seven scores, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. He has also caught 26 passes for 135 yards and a score. Last year, Michael spent time with both the Seahawks and Packers and rushed for 583 yards and seven touchdowns combined, averaging 3.9 yards per carry, and caught 22 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. He actually impressed with Seattle in the preseason and started seven games, having some nice moments. He wound up getting cut mid-season, but he still was the Seahawks’ team leader in carries (117), rushing yards (469), rushing touchdowns (6), rushing first downs (27), and 20+ yard rushes (2) in 2016.

So now he’s added to the mix with the Colts, and many are wondering what he brings to the table. In short, he’ll probably compete to be a change-of-pace back behind Frank Gore, but even then he’ll have competition.

Gore is obviously the team’s starter, though he could see his workload decrease in 2017. Robert Turbin was re-signed and is a very capable short-yardage and goal-line back, while he might see an expanded role this season too. And then the Colts drafted Marlon Mack in the fourth round this year, and Mack is an exciting playmaker who figures to be that change-of-pace guy in Indy.

So... where does Christine Michael fit in? That’s the big question, and I think it’s important to understand what this signing is: a flier on a guy with some intriguing skills and some production in the NFL. The Colts signed Michael in favor of an undrafted rookie, which makes sense. But this signing does not at all guarantee that Michael will have a role on the 53-man roster in 2017, as he’ll have to compete. His top competition might be from Mack for that change-of-pace role, but that will be tough to do because of Mack’s status as a draft pick and as an exciting playmaker in college. The Colts might keep four running backs, in which case Michael stands as good of a chance as anyone at getting that final spot, but it’s far from certain.

Overall, then, here’s how I see the Christine Michael signing. I don’t think it will immediately impact any plans the team has, as it’s best to still project Gore as the starter, Turbin as the short-yardage guy, and Mack as the change-of-pace back. What they’re doing in signing Michael is getting a player who has had chances in the NFL but hasn’t put it all together and taking a flier on him. If it doesn’t work out, they won’t have lost much at all. If it does work out and Michael impresses, the Colts could surely find a role for him in some way.

The offseason is the time of year for these types of moves, and it can be intriguing to sign a known name who led a team in rushing yards last year. But Michael will have to prove it on the field if he wants to stick around with the Colts.