NFL Free Agency Market: Running Backs

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What the 2013 free agency market lacks in quarterbacks, it makes up for in running backs. Pro Bowlers, starters, and a Madden cover boy round out this bunch. However, a lot of injury questions come with this group of backs.

If the market has taught us anything lately, the demand for backs is not what it used to be with offensive game dominated by the air. It took veteran Cedric Benson until August 12th to sign with a team and this after a 1,000-yard season.

Here’s a look at the running back market.

Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins
Potential Teams: Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers

How about the career resurgence of Reggie Bush? What began looking like a failed, injury prone first-round pick with the New Orleans Saints, Bush turned into true threat in Miami.

Of a possible 80 games over his first five years in New Orleans, Bush appeared in only 60 and of those games he started only 41. After his rookie contract expired, Bush took his talents to South Beach. The result? Over 2,050 rushing yards and 2,660 all-purpose yards in two seasons while missing only one game.

But where to now?

Bush and the Dolphins originally were said to have mutual interest but that flame may be going out. In December while speaking to the Miami Herald Bush said simply, “It’s getting pretty late. It’s getting pretty late.”

The Dolphins seem to be shying away from a possible resigning and Bush can tell.

“It comes down to who needs me, who wants me, and obviously, money,” Bush said. “I want to play another five years. I think 12 years, as a running back, that’s a good place to start.”

If a mutual agreement is not met in Miami, Bush will be a valued. Not only is he a versatile weapon, he’s also a strong leader in the locker room.

Two teams that could be realistic possibilities for Bush would be Green Bay and Cleveland. Green Bay has had a putrid running attack in recent years and with Bush that could change. Plus, Bush’s pass catching ability in the Packers high octane offense could add a serious weapon to their arsenal.

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In Cleveland, Bush would provide an explosive, versatile tandem with Trent Richardson — something that new coach Rob Chudzinski had in Carolina with backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

A critical factor to take into account, is grass or turf fields. Turf fields damage players knees and cause injuries more frequently — New Orleans has a turf field. Miami has a grass field. Bush will most likely look for a team with the latter of the two.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams
Potential Teams: San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions

An unexpected free agent is Jackson. In October, St. Louis announced that even though Jackson had not reached the incentives that would allow him to void the final year of his contract (2013), they would let Jackson void his final season anyway.

Jackson will get attention from a lot of teams around the league but three that particularly stick out are San Diego, Indianapolis, and Detroit.

San Diego just landed new head coach Mike McCoy and have a lot of people excited in the organization, especially quarterback Philip Rivers.

“Once I found out that we were bringing him in on Monday, I was hoping he wasn’t going to leave again,” Rivers said. “I’m excited that was the case and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

An offense with Rivers, Jackson, and tight end Antonio Gates? That would be something.

The Chargers do have former first-round pick Ryan Matthews at running back but he hasn’t played a full season yet due to injury. The tandem of Matthews would not only give the Chargers a new offensive dimension but also would keep both backs rested.

Indianapolis seems like another strong possibility.

The Colts are coming off playoff run and have a strong, young foundation with Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Colby Fleener, and Dwayne Allen. Matched with the veteran leadership of Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeny, Robert Mathis, and Antoine Bethea, Jackson could be a valuable asset.

Jackson would give Indy a solid option at running back. Something they haven’t really had since Edgerrin James left after the 2005. Similarly to San Diego, the Colts also have a young running back in Vick Ballard who had a respectable rookie year with 814 yards.

The Lions also seem like a possible fit as Jackson has experience in a dome and like the Packers, the Lions have been lacking a ground game, and like the Chargers and Colts, the Lions have a young back in Mikel LeShoure that could keep Jackson with some fresh legs.

The Lions have the talent to make a strong playoff run, they just need to get on the same page. A strong, veteran leader like Jackson could help them get on that page.

Another landing spot, of course, could be the couch. Only 30 years old, Jackson has hinted he might take the Barry Sanders road and take an early, healthy exit from the game.

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Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers
Potential Teams: New York Jets, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers

Mendenhall had a season to forget about in 2012.
After tearing his ACL in the 2011 season finale, the Steelers’ running back rehabbed aggressively to make it back as soon as possible. Mendenhall returned in Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles and turned in 101 yards and a touchdown in the game.

However the next week against the Tennessee Titans, Mendenhall pulled his Achilles. He never fully got a back to a 100%, lost his starting job, and then was suspended for the Week 15 game at Dallas for conduct detrimental to the team.

After a rocky contract year, it seems Mendenhall won’t be back with the team.

One possible landing spot is, where else, with the New York Jets. The Jets have signed disgruntled Steelers before (wide receiver Santonio Holmes) and Mendenhall would provide a definite upgrade at the position. Jets’ running back Shonn Greene is also a free agent and lost snaps down the stretch to second-year man Bilal Powell.

The Rams also provide a possible landing spot. As noted Steven Jackson is most surely on his way out.

The Packers are also at a desperate need for a solid running back and love finding a good deal at the position. Mendenhall has essentially rested much of the season and coming off a bumpy year isn’t in a position to demand much.

The Best of the Rest
- Lance Ball, Denver Broncos
- Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
- Cedric Benson, Green Bay Packers
- LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants
- Andre Brown, New York Giants
- Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Mike Goodson, Oakland Raiders
- Shonn Greene, New York Jets
- Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs
- Chris Ivory, New Orleans Saints
- Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys
- Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Bernard Scott, Cincinnati Bengals
- Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions
- LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona Cardinals
- Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots

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