Three and out: Gerhart to see expanded role in 2012

Vikings want to use Gerhart more: The ranks of true featured backs in the NFL could be shrinking. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier says the team wants to get running back Toby Gerhart, who ran well in place of an injured Adrian Peterson, more involved in the offense next season. Gerhart could start the year as the team’s No. 1 back if Peterson can’t recover from major knee surgery in time. Platoons, of course, generally devalue both backs involved. Peterson is already not likely to be a first-round pick in most drafts; a true time-share with Gerhart could bump him down to the mid- to late-second round.

Dolphins seeking more RB depth: Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland talked running backs with The Miami Herald, praising both Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. However, the team has interviewed Florida RB Chris Rainey, who filled a dual role as a rusher and receiver at Gainesville. If Rainey lands with the Dolphins and Thomas is able to get healthy after a spotty rookie season, Miami could go with a three-RB rotation, similar to the arrangement that worked so well for the New Orleans Saints this season. As is also true of the Saints, though, picking one of those backs will be quite a chore — especially since Bush and Rainey have similar skills. Keep an eye on this story as it develops.

Texans have tough choices to make: After making their first playoff appearance in franchise history, the Texans now have to decide whether they can afford to keep both running back Arian Foster and linebacker Mario Williams. Foster was the NFL’s sixth-best rusher despite missing two of Houston’s first four games. Meanwhile, the Texans were able to field the league’s second-best defensive unit despite losing Williams in Week 5. Both players reportedly want to stay in Houston, but the team is already over the salary cap and would like to re-sign a number of other free agents. Wherever they land, Foster will undoubtedly be a high first-round pick next season while Williams should be a popular IDP selection in most drafts.

— Marcas Grant

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