January 22, 2016

We don't know what will happen before Free Agency kicks off in March, and now until the NFL Draft in April is even murkier waters. What we do know, however, is how much estimated cap room each team is slated to have going into this offseason and which players are set (or in today's article's case, rumored) to hit the open market.


So with that being said, let's think through it and connect some dots. I have identified the Top 10 upcoming Free Agent Running Backs with a little analysis to explain the logic behind where I think they will land next year.


*Please note that while Arian Foster is not technically a Free Agent this upcoming offseason, it has been reported that the Texans will cut bait with Foster.



You think Doug Martin's agent told him 2015 was a contract year? He certainly played like it, finishing second in the NFL in rushing and helping take a ton of pressure off of rookie QB Jameis Winston. Extending Martin could be pricey for the Bucs, especially when they have Charles Sims waiting in the wings and RBs are becoming an increasingly depreciated position, but with over $46 million in projected cap space, it seems like it's something that will happen, especially with Koetter now taking over as Head Coach.



It's rumored that the Texans will be moving on from Arian Foster this offseason, and they are probably wise to do so. Foster can't stay healthy and they need to find a more reliable fixture at the RB position. Cutting Foster would save the Texans a net $6.6 million against the cap, and they could be in good position to take Ezekiel Elliott in the draft. So if you were Arian Foster and free to sign with any team, where would you go? Personally, I would go to the Cowboys. He would have the inside track to the starting RB spot, get to stay in Texas, play behind the best offensive line in football, and compete for the postseason. The other option that comes to mind could potentially be the division-rival Colts, who apparently like old running backs, and old players in general.



The only running back currently on the Jets roster is Zac Stacy, and with only six Draft picks, I don't expect GM Mike Maccagnan to burn a high pick on a RB. Chris Ivory had an outstanding season for the Jets - did you know he finished 5th in the NFL in rushing behind Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Todd Gurley and Darren McFadden? If they improve the right side of the offensive line this offseason, he can be even better in 2016.



It's clear that the Bears want to move on from Forte, so where does he go? An interesting landing spot would be the New York Giants, who need a reliable starter at RB. Shane Vereen is more of a specialty pass catching back, and Rashad Jennings, although solid, is not a premier NFL running back. The Giants have a good amount of cap space ($35 million) and I believe new Head Coach and offensive mastermind Ben McAdoo feels this team can compete now and a savvy veteran like Forte can add stability to the offense.



I took a little shot at Colts GM Ryan Grigson earlier in this article, but can you really blame me? Based on his Free Agency track record recently, it almost seems like it is required that players have an active Life Alert in case they fall down moving from the gym to the film room. To his credit, when Irsay announced the extension of Pagano/Grigson, the GM did say he needs to focus on signing younger Free Agents. Well, here's your chance. Lamar Miller was one of the most under-utilized weapons in the NFL this year, and as much as Adam Gase would probably like to retain Miller, Ndamokung Suh has handicapped the Dolphins cap situation so much that they are already $7 million OVER before the offseason even starts. 



Exit Foster, enter Morris. The Redskins don't seem content on keeping Morris next year, but he is exactly the type of back that could be successful in Houston. Morris has shown he can have success rushing behind an average offensive line, and he likely won't cost too much for GM Rick Smith and the Texans. The Pensacola product may also opt to go home, so a team like the Jaguars to share the load with promising rookie TJ Yeldon may be another option. 



Although his season was cut short by injury and rookie David Johnson emerged as someone who can harbor the load, Chris Johnson looked like he had a renaissance in the desert. GM Steve Keim and the Cardinals staff have already publically made mention of re-signing Chris Johnson, so I would be surprised if he ended up elsewhere.



The Patriots COULD re-sign Blount, but they are a team that is extremely fluid with the RB position and would probably be fine with Brandon Bolden filling that role. It's hard to get a pulse on this new-age Cleveland Browns, but it is clear that they need a bruiser at the RB position that currently includes Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell. Hue Jackson liked mixing it up between Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill in Cincinnati, so Blount basically fills the Hill role and returns to a division where he had a lot of success in Pittsburgh.



Juwan Thompson is currently the only RB under contract in Denver, so they will likely re-sign either Anderson or Ronnie Hillman. Although the Broncos will likely take a RB in the Draft, a veteran like Anderson that has experience with the team and Gary Kubiak's system could be valuable at the right price.



Antonio Andrews' work load got a big boost when Mike Mularkey took over as the Interim Head Coach, and now that the Interim tag has been removed, I'd expect Mularkey to want Andrews back. With a back field that includes Andrews, Bishop Sankey and David Cobb, it will be an open competition this offseason to see which player takes the reigns and becomes the Week 1 starter.



*All Cap Projections are from www.spotrac.com



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