Thinking back to the AFC Championship Game two years ago, Rashard Mendenhall was the difference in that game. He dominated the first half of that game and finished with 121 yards on 27 carries. He consistently found cutback lanes and helped Pittsburgh run it down the Jets' throat as the Steelers jumped out to a 24-0 lead that was too tall of a hill for the Jets to climb despite a furious second half comeback attempt.
Mendenhall is set to be an unrestricted free agent and viewed as unlikely to return to the Steelers. He tore his ACL late during the 2011, and his recovery was slow. He only played six games in 2012 and was generally ineffective. He sustained an Achilles injury during the year which did not help. He was also suspended by the Steelers late in the season. The suspension was related to a benching that followed a two fumble performance against the Browns. He was told he would not be active for a game against the Chargers, he did not even show at the stadium.
Prior to his injury, Mendenhall was an excellent runner. While not a good receiver, he brought a ton to the table on the ground. His 225 pound frame allows him to be effective running between the tackles. He has good vision, changes directions well, and has good speed for a guy of his size. Nothing he does blows you away, but he does everything pretty well.
Some people like Adrian Peterson recover from a torn ACL in a snap. Others recover at a slower pace. Another offseason might do Menenhall well and bring back his explosiveness. He seems like a potential candidate for a LaRon Landry one year prove it contract. For a team like the Jets, an effective back on a cheap contract could be effective.
Mendenhall brings his share of baggage. The biggest piece were some mind bogglingly stupid comments from his Twitter account after the death of Osama bin Laden.
These kind of comments aren't going to be well-received anywhere, but they would take on an extra layer of offensiveness in New York. You could count on this coming up should the Jets sign him and the team taking bad PR.
I think a rebuilding team needs to set a winning atmosphere. It should target players who are cheap with upside but also players who are focused on winning. A guy who does not show up for a game because he is angry about being deactivated is not the kind of guy you want around. He is the kind of guy you tolerate if he can produce, your team is good, and you have stable leadership in place to help him fly right. When you have a bad team, the bad apples can corrupt the atmosphere. I will understand if the Jets bring in Mendenhall, but I would be inclined to see them look elsewhere to solve their running back needs.