Tim Hightower had quite a bizarre NFL career.
The weirdness started before he even entered the league. He wasn’t invited to the Draft Combine and needed to stand out at a Pro Day to gain any sort of traction. He would up being selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of the 2008 draft.
After a somewhat disappointing rookie season, Hightower came on strong during his second- and third-year campaigns. Through those two seasons, he totaled 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging a solid 4.5 yards per carry. He also developed a reputation as a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield, adding another 564 yards through the air.
In the 2011 offseason, however, the Cardinals opted to go in a different direction and traded Hightower to the Washington Redskins. The latter badly needed a punch on the ground, and Hightower projected as the perfect fit, as someone who could both burst off the line scrimmage to rattle off big gains and also add a pass-catching dynamic out of the backfield.
Unfortunately, his tenure in Washington didn’t unfold as planned. Not only did Hightower’s average run plummet behind the Redskins’ shaky offensive line, but he tore his ACL a mere five games into the season, leaving him out for the year.
Though Washington re-signed him on a one-year deal that summer, the team ended up cutting him before the start of the regular season, mostly because they wanted to create more volume for rookie running back Alfred Morris.
In retrospect, there was nothing too wrong with that decision. Hightower ended up missing the next three NFL seasons before making a return with the New Orleans Saints in 2015. It was there, however, that he pieced together a stellar showing as Mark Ingram’s backup. His average yards per run hovered around four, and he continued to make the more-than-occasional play as a receiver.
Really, the entire NFL gave up on Hightower too early. There’s no way he should have been out of the league for that long, even with his injury history. Washington specifically, though, seemed to miss an opportunity.
They never needed to cut Hightower to make room for Morris. Hightower had cut his teeth as a No. 2 and No. 3 running back. He could have fit easily into the rotation and would have added more of a pass-catching dynamic Morris never fully sported. Chalk this up to another example of hindsight being 20/20.