2014 NFL Free Agent Running Backs
By: Roshan Bhagat
Maurice Jones-Drew [Jacksonville Jaguars] - Playing out his final season with the Jaguars, MJD will be in a similar situation to that of Steven Jackson this past offseason. His next contract is unlikely to be shattering, but with a smart decision, he could play himself into a terrific situation with a contender. His receiving ability will factor heavily into his role within an offense going forward. Expect him to test the market and the Jaguars to only match a bargain market offer.
Knowshon Moreno [Denver Broncos] - Though the Broncos invested a second round pick into Montee Ball a year ago, Moreno's emergence as a 3-down back helped facilitate the offense's record-setting season. Even if the organization's plan is to increase the workload on Ball next season—which would require a drastic decrease in his fumble rate—Moreno's ability in all facets of the game would be sorely missed if Denver is unable to retain him.
Darren McFadden [Oakland Raiders] - After back-to-back injury-plagued ineffective seasons, McFadden is expected to split ways with the Raiders. There are plenty of teams that will turn to the 2011 tape and fall in love with his potential, but then come to the realization that he's never played more than 13 games and averaged less than 4 yards a carry in 3 of his 6 pro seasons. There's a belief that McFadden could reunite with Hue Jackson in Cincinnati, but that would involve the Bengals first releasing BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Ben Tate [Houston Texans] - Ben Tate's ability to play through broken ribs in place of Arian Foster was one of the few bright spots on a team that finished the season on a 14-game losing streak. Tate is a tough runner and capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. Though this brings value to the Texans, Tate has reiterated several times that he does not believe he'll be back with the team who already has a hefty penny invested in Arian Foster.
LeGarrette Blount [New England Patriots] - Blount received an increase share of the team's carries down the stretch after fumbles plagued their other backs. As the reliable one, this opportunity has enabled him to post elite production down the stretch and earn a couple extra buck on his upcoming paychecks. Though the Patriots have talent at the position, he may just be what the team's wants in a back to complement Vereen. It'll be intriguing to monitor whether this late-season burst musters up any additional interest this offseason.
Andre Brown [New York Giants] - After Brown returned from a broken leg to the Giants lineup, there were a couple weeks that gave the team a sliver of hope. However, after finishing the season with 3.5 yards a carry, Brown may not receive the contract he could have played himself into. Given the struggles of the offensive line up front and the inconsistency of the passing game, perhaps the surrounding offense is more at fault. Regardless, with the situations the Giants have had compiling rushing yards and maintaining ball security in the past, Andre Brown is a decent bet to return to New York.
Donald Brown [Indianapolis Colts] - Though Donald Brown never developed into the back the organization expected when they drafted him in the 1st round, his multi-threat versatility enables the Colts to run a variety of looks with him in the backfield. For a team that has gotten nothing out their 2014 1st round pick Trent Richardson, the need to retain Brown may be a little higher they anticipated it would be when they pulled the trigger on the deal early in the season.
Rashad Jennings [Oakland Raiders] - Taking the place of Darren McFadden, Rashad Jennings put together a strong season amassing over 1000 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns. With the Raiders unlikely to retain Darren McFadden for a second contract because of injury issues, a bargain play for Jennings seems likely.
James Starks [Green Bay Packers] - Starks has been an excellent complement to Lacy with his ability to slash a defense. He's reading blocks quicker and with more confidence this year enabling his combination of size and speed to flourish. In a backfield returning DaJuan Harris and Jonathan Franklin off the Injured Reserve, Starks may be expendable to the team though.
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