Unlike the quarterbacks available in free agency, who were are all backups, the running backs available are a little more interesting. The reason why this position is more enticing is that we actually have a couple of starters hitting the open market and some more players that are looking to get their opportunity to become a featured running back. So let us take a closer look at the best available running backs this off-season.
After years of disappointment, Knowshon Moreno finally showed us what he is capable of doing racking up 1,038 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Moreno does have a long medical history that will keep his asking price from sky rocketing, but he will be getting a nice paycheck this off-season.
It will be interesting to see if the Broncos are willing to pay him as they drafted Monte Ball last year to taking over the running back duties. Denver also has Eric Decker and Dominque Rodgers Cromartie hitting the open market as well, and as of now are looking to have a little over 12 million in cap room this off-season, which will make things difficult to keep all of these players.
The Broncos could trim some fat and cut some players or rework their contracts to make it easier to keep these vital players around. Nevertheless, teams like the Browns, Jaguars, and Raiders who have cap space and are running back hungry, will most likely try to outbid Denver for Moreno this off-season; however, Moreno was an essential piece to success of the Broncos this season, so Denver should not let him walk without a fight. Chances he leaves the Broncos: 50%
Not once in McFadden’s six-year career, has he been able to stay healthy for an entire season, which puts a big red flag up and will have many teams not even interested in talking to him. Nevertheless, McFadden has shown he can be explosive and a good receiver out of the backfield, so there will be some teams interested. Even so, there will only be a select few teams willing to offer McFadden a contract and they are not going be rolling out the red carpet for him.
If McFadden finds a good opportunity where he has a good offensive line or plays in a time-share role, there is a chance he can shed his draft bust label. Think about it, he is only 26 and still has a few years left if you go by the 30-age wall for running back, but he has to stay healthy and produce for this to become a reality. Chance he leaves the Raiders: 80%
The honest truth is Maurice Jones- Drew is not the player that he once was, as wear and tear has taken a toll on him, and he creeps closer to the dreaded running back breakdown year of 30.
Coming back from an injury this past season, Jones-Drew just did not seem like the same player he used to be, as he averaged only 3.4 yards a carry for the season. Jone -Drew’s best bet this off-season is to chase the ring, and catch on with a team that is a playoff contender even if that means taking on a lesser role. Chances he leaves the Jaguars: 85%
Coming off his best season to date where he averaged 5.3 yards a carry it will be interesting to see how many teams reach out to Donald Brown, after not showing much his first four seasons in the league. It doesn’t seem likely that he will stick around with the Colts as they already have Trent Richardson; however, Richardson was clearly out performed by Brown, so it isn’t etched in stone that he is on his way out. Even so, averaging only 110 carries for his career there is still plenty of tread on Browns tires, and there will be teams out there willing to swipe him away from Indy, it is just a question on how much money teams are willing to pay him. Chances he leaves the Colts: 60%
When Reggie Bush was out this past season, Bell shined in his absence with his dual threat ability catching and running the ball, which helped him gain 1,197 total yards and eight touchdowns. Another thing working in Bell’s favor is that in every game that he had at least 15 carries he punched it in for six. Even though Bell is 27, this is only his second season that he had a substantial role, as he bounced around the league from 2010-2011, until catching on with the Lions.
Bell is another running back that will have teams interested in talking to him, but not exactly breaking the bank to sign him. It might be a good idea for Bell to stay in Detroit if the price is right, as we, all know Reggie Bush has only played a full 16 games twice in his eight year career and Bell will see action no matter what if he sticks around. Chances he leaves the Lions: 40 %
Ben Tate has played second fiddle to Arian Foster for three seasons now, averaging 4.7 yards a carry during this time, and has some running back needy teams ready to hand him over the reins. Tate himself has tweeted that the chances of him coming back are slim to none and there are rumors already circling that the Browns are very interested in him.
The one thing holding Tate back from a huge payday is that he did not quite seize the moment this year with Foster out a good portion of the season, as he too succumbed to injuries himself, which make it two years in row of him dealing with injuries. No matter what, Tate is going to get his chance next season to be a starter on a running back hungry team, whether it is the Browns or another team looking for a starting running back. Chances he leaves the Texans: 95 %
Playing dinged up most of the year and time-sharing with the dynamic rookie Andre Ellington, Mendenhall only racked up 821 total yards and had a measly average of 3.1 yards a carry. Still, Mendenhall did not have any off field incidents and played the goal line back role well, as he punched it in the end zone eight times. If Mendenhall keeps his asking price down, he should stay in the desert, as he has been most productive throughout his career in Bruce Arians system. Chances he leaves the Cardinals: 30%
What transpires with LeGarrette Blount is going to be very interesting, after he turned up the jets totaling 355 rushing yards and six touchdowns in a two game span at the end of the season. Blount’s career seemed to be in jeopardy this time last year, as he lost his starting job to Doug Martin and looked to be stuck as a backup, even after catching on with the Patriots. However, injuries to other players helped Blunt see the field and he performed well accumulating five yards a carry in a crowded backfield.
When it comes to running backs in New England, you do not know what is going to happen with Bill Belichick as head coach. In spite of this, Blount’s running style matches former Patriot players Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon, who were vital in the backfield for Super Bowl winning teams in New England under Belichick. With that said, the Patriots will most likely put a nice offer on the table as they admire his bruising style, but there might a team offering even more after the way Blount finished the season. Chances he leaves the Patriots: 50 %
About the Author: John Yeomans
Aspiring sports writer that is letting the world know my thoughts and predictions on the NFL.