Kenyan Drake: Atlanta Falcons – There is no shortage of weapons in Atlanta. With a less than durable Todd Gurley as lead back, the Falcons are unlikely to trust Ito Smith and Brian Hill with full time duties should Gurley leave. It seems hard to believe Gurley is only 26 years old. Drake is likely to get at least $6 million per year in free agency. Many feel a number Arizona isn’t comfortable with, especially given the emergence of Chase Edmonds. His speed, strength and propensity to score touchdowns seems a great fit to compliment Ryan, Ridley and Julio.
James Conner: New York Giants – The Giants need a legitimate safety net for Saquan. A lead back in the backup role to not only push Saquan, but to protect him. Barkley is the offense, this much we know. Without him, Daniel Jones is mediocre at best, and that’s a stretch. Pittsburgh has little to no cash to spare since the organization continues to pay Roethlisberger like Amazon pays Jeff Bezos, so Connner is gone. He’s the perfect fit for New York. He’s a fairly big back, he’s disciplined, a leader and very much a fighter. This would be the best 1-2 RB combo in the league if both healthy. On a down year with subpar numbers, the Giants could sign Conner at a clearance rate on what could be premium talent.
Aaron Jones: New York Jets – The Jets have some coin to toss around. Jones is the top prize in running back free agency, averaging 5.5 yards per carry with more than 3000 total yards and 30 touchdowns the last 2 seasons. With a change at quarterback (DeShaun Watson or Zach Wilson?) adding Jones makes the Jets instants contenders in the division
Chris Carson: Seattle Seahawks – Chris’ injury-shortened seasons have hurt his value. The guy just can’t play a full 16. The fumbles were much improved with 1 in 2020. 10 the two previous seasons. This allows Seattle to bring him back on a discount and let Carlos Hyde walk. He’s a powerful back. Seattle’s regression is not a reflection of Carson.
Jamaal Williams: Seattle Seahawks – A proven back who’s done very well backing up Jones in Green Bay. He is also the best ball protector in free agency with 500 career carries and 0 fumbles. As much as I hate the term, “a good clubhouse guy,” my word is he that… It’s impossible to not love Jamaal. He’s a perfect fit for Seattle.
Todd Gurley: Los Angeles Rams – Going Going Back Back to Cali. However unfortunate it may be, his body does not want to be the primary back. The Rams could sign Gurley on a franchise friendly 1-2 year deal. Cam Akers is a young, promising back, but lacks experience. Occasionally turning to Gurley to preserve Akers seems ideal. The Rams would look to be Super Bowl ready, returning the same offense, plus Gurley and swapping Goff for Stafford. We already know what the defense is bringing to the table.
Leonard Fournette: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – If 2021 regular season Lenny is even 75% of what playoff Lenny was, you have to bring him back. Fournette was bruising and downright ferocious. He was playing like he had something to prove, and well he did. He’s never been a backup, ever. Staring up at Ronald Jones on the depth chart all season isn’t what he expected. Leonard managed to make his way back to the top, when it mattered the most. This is the guy the Jags drafted. He was dazzling. No brainer to re-sign him and Tom wouldn’t have it any other way.
James White: San Francisco 49ers – No matter who the QB is, they can benefit from James White. White is a brilliant pass-catching back and an exceptional blocker in the pass game. He doesn’t get many carries, but when he does he doesn’t let it go with only 2 fumbles in 7 years. If Tevin Coleman and Jerrick McKinnon leave the Bay, White is a great pickup for a team that is only one season removed from the Super Bowl.
Matt Breida: Miami Dolphins – A guy who averages over 5 yards per carry over the course of his career should be a green light. I suspect the Dolphins miss out on the bigger prizes in RB free agency, as they look to fill other needs first. Assuming they draft a QB, Tua may be used to help bring in RB1. Breida is steady Eddie and pretty good. Unless he can grab big dollars outside of Miami I imagine he stays. It’s a great place to play with a solid fan base and you can’t beat the weather. The upside for the Dolphins is better than 85% of NFL organizations, with considerable momentum.
Lesean McCoy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Not much to say here. If McCoy wants to continue to play, I think he’s back on a cheap deal. Likely limited touches, but can carry and receive the ball when called upon. If he has a 13th year left in him, I’m confident he would be welcomed back seeking his third consecutive ring, eyeing retirement with minimal abuse on the body.
Jerrick McKinnon: Green Bay Packers – Injuries and a very large contract haven’t helped Jerrick’s case. The crowded San Fran backfield makes it easy to forget how good McKinnon looked leaving Minnesota. Absent in 2018 and 2109 isn’t a great bargaining chip either. The injury prone tag doesn’t just go away. The Packers will look to add some sort of veteran presence in the backfield to protect A.J. Dillon. A speedy back like McKinnon with great hands looks a lot like a guy named Aaron Jones.
Chris Thompson: New England Patriots – This is the perfect Bill-back. On a cheap 1 year deal the Pats would be able to measure what they have as they rebuild. The AFC East is only getting better. Literally every team was better year over year, except New England, which was much worse. Irrelevant to the Jets record, even they are a more talented team, and poised to be the most improved team in 2021. The Patriots need to embrace rebuilding. Coming off of injury Thompson will have to sign an inexpensive contract somewhere to prove he’s healthy and ready to go, likely a 1 year deal. He’s an exceptional pass catcher and quite fast. Assuming the loss of James White, this a James White clone in many ways. Could be a great bargain for N.E.
Tevin Coleman: Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles almost signed Coleman in 2019. Rarely has Coleman been given a chance to shine, but when given the lead role, he does just that, shine. He won’t get the lead spot in Philadelphia either, but Miles Sanders has shown signs of some durability issues. Common with backs that size. Coleman is a step up from Boston Scott and Corey Clement. Coming off knee surgery, The Eagles could sign Coleman under market value.
Mike Davis: Washington Football Team – Expect WFT to turn to a competent, veteran to spell Antonio Gibson. The rookie was amazing last season. He’s only 22. NFL teams have definitely been hesitant handing the full workload off unless necessary. We’ve seen big name guys go down when the emergency brake is removed – CMC, Barkley, Cook, Chubb, Miles, etc… staying power is better with a plan B – Kamara/Murray, Jones/Williams. J.K. Dobbins and Jon Taylor are great examples of guys eased into the role. Gibson inherited the full time role faster than anyone anticipated. WFT will want to slow him a tad to preserve his health, if possible.
Carlos Hyde: New York Jets – If Seattle re-signs Carson and pursues the likes of a Jamaal Williams, that doesn’t leave much left for Hyde. I expect the Jets to be all in on Aaron Jones. If they can’t get Jones they’ll turn their attention to Kenyan Drake, Chris Carson or James Conner. I do not expect Gore to return if a team offering equivalent pay is interested, that is already a contender. While the Jets will be much better, they won’t be as good as Buffalo, should the Bills have Interest. Even with the signing of Jones a vacancy is left with an exiting Gore. Hyde is more than capable, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and has provided above average numbers in limited duty.
Le’Veon Bell: Pittsburgh Steelers – Since I have Gurley going back to L.A. How bout another reunion? If Bell wants back in, it makes a lot of sense. He will be considerably cheaper, and after posting the worst rushing offense in the league, I think Pittsburgh would forgive the very public breakup. People have short memories and winning cures all. Mike Tomlin has spoken favorably of Bell. The bad blood there seemingly wasn’t real, but more so media sensation. He’s approaching 30 years old, and I can’t imagine he wants to continue to average 3 carries per game. KC will not resign him. Expect the Steelers to at minimum inquire.
Phillip Lindsay: Arizona Cardinals – Not signing Kenyan Drake doesn’t mean handing the keys to Chase Edmonds. Chase will be in line to compete for the top spot. Emphasis on compete. Lindsay is fast and would be a great compliment to a scrambling Kyler Murray. Averaging 4.8 yards per carry since entering the league he’s never had the opportunity to play behind an elite QB, which many consider Kyler to be. Opportunity for big gain is amplified behind a great quarterback as the defense has to remain somewhat honest.
Frank Gore: Buffalo Bills – The ageless one, just a season removed – returns for glory! Buffalo really could’ve used Frank in 2020-2021. He is the definition of durable. This, his 17th season may be the one he gets a ring. The Bills could use some experience and sure hands in the back field, and Frank has plenty of both. I can’t imagine it would take much to acquire Gore, however the Jets will have interest in bringing him back to help with the transition during a very quick ramp up on rebuilding. If the Jets land an Aaron Jones type back or actually Aaron Jones, Frank would be a nice piece to facilitate and handle some workload.
Adrian Peterson: Chicago Bears – A mostly one dimensional, and now injury prone Tarik Cohen means the depth chart may not be very deep. AP is durable and seemingly wants to play until he’s 50. He would compete for backup duties and still take some carries from David Montgomery. He still runs just as hard as ever. Peterson has obviously lost a step with age, but still averaged 4.2 yards per carry his last 3 seasons.