Here is a list of select running backs who are slated to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year. These players can re-sign with their current teams at any time and can begin to negotiate with other teams beginning on Saturday.
LeGarrette Blount/RB/Patriots (6’0, 250lbs) – In his first season with New England after being traded from Tampa Bay, Blount was part of a loaded Patriots backfield. He eventually became the Pats workhorse late in the season. Blount ran for 772 yards last year and scored seven touchdowns on the ground. He ran wild in Week 17 and in the Wild Card round of the postseason gaining a combined 355 yards and six touchdowns on 48 carries. He’s the definition of a power back and has served as a between the tackles and short yardage specialist during his four year career. (UPDATE 3/29: LeGarrette Blount has signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.)
Andre Brown/RB/Giants (6’0, 227lbs) – Brown’s 2013 campaign was almost over before its start, as the NC State product that’s already been on five teams (including two separate stints with the Giants) in six seasons went down in Big Blue’s final preseason game with a leg injury. But Brown has able to avoid going on injured reserve and returned for New York’s Week 10 win against the Raiders. He subsequently played and received double digit carries in eight games last season. He rushed for a total of 492 yards (a career high) and three touchdowns. Though he’s played six seasons in the league, he’s only played meaningful time the past two years, rushing for a combined 877 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Donald Brown/RB/Colts (5’10, 207lbs) – At the beginning on the 2013 season, it didn’t appear that Donald Brown was going to get meaningful time on the field. But injuries to Colts starter Vick Ballard, backup Ahmad Bradshaw, and overall disappointing play from a man brought in midway through the year in Trent Richardson meant that Brown got some run with Indy this year. He played in all 16 games for the Colts and started five contests. He ran for a total of 537 yards and six touchdowns. Brown was also a threat in the passing game, catching 27 balls for 214 yards and two scores. (UPDATE 3/12: Donald Brown has agreed to terms with the San Diego Chargers.)
Toby Gerhart/RB/Vikings (6’0, 231lbs) – Mostly known as the man to backup Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, the Stanford product has shown flashes of powerful running ability. In limited action through four seasons as Peterson’s fill-in with the Vikings, Gerhart has run 1,305 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 4.7 yards a carry. (UPDATE 3/11: Toby Gerhart has agreed to terms with the Jacksonville Jaguars.)
Rashad Jennings/RB/Raiders (6’1, 231lbs) – In Jennings’s first season with the Oakland Raiders after primarily serving as Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup in Jacksonville, the 6th year vet out of Liberty competed with Darren McFadden for the starting job out by the bay. Jennings started eight games and played in 15 for the Silver and Black, rushing for a career high in yardage (733) and touchdowns (six). He also served as a competent receiver out of the backfield, catching 36 passes for 292 yards (also career highs). (UPDATE 3/12: Rashad Jennings has signed with the New York Giants.)
Maurice Jones-Drew/RB/Jaguars (5’7, 210lbs) – The biggest name and most experienced player on this list, Jones-Drew had what most would consider a down season for the three time All-Pro (2009-2011). The man affectionately known as MJD ran for 803 yards and only five scores last season, despite starting 15 games for Jacksonville. The NFL’s leading rusher in 2011 and a three time Pro Bowler, Jones-Drew is a pint-sized powerhouse, and has been an every-down back in this league since 2009, when he became Jacksonville’s starter. He holds several Jaguars rushing records, including the most career touchdowns (63), most touchdowns in a season (15 in 2009), and most yardage in a season (1,606 in 2011). (UPDATE 3/29: Maurice Jones-Drew has signed with the Oakland Raiders.)
Darren McFadden/RB/Raiders (6’1, 218lbs) – Darren McFadden came into the NFL with massive expectations after a tremendous college career at the University of Arkansas, but has yet to put together a full season in his six years in the NFL. McFadden has displayed flashes of greatness, but has been nagged by injuries his entire career. Last year was a rough one for Run-DMC, as he only played in 10 games, starting seven of them, and rushing for 379 yards and five touchdowns. McFadden has shown the ability to be a home run back and a productive player, as he ran for 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010, though he did miss three games that season as well. A change in scenery may do some good for the two-time All American. (UPDATE 3/11: Darren McFadden has re-signed with the Oakland Raiders.)
Knowshon Moreno/RB/Broncos (5’11, 220lbs) – A major part of the Denver’s record setting 2013 offense, the Broncos’ 2009 first round pick out of Georgia is coming off his best season in his five year NFL career. Playing in all 16 games and starting all but one, Moreno ran for a career best 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns. But Moreno’s production wasn’t limited to the ground. He caught 60 passes for 548 yards and three touchdowns. Though he’s already played five seasons in the league, Moreno’s been part of a revolving backfield for the Broncos for most of his career, and may be one of the freshest running backs available in free agency. UPDATE 3/29: Knowshon Moreno has signed with the Miami Dolphins.
Ben Tate/RB/Texans (5’11, 217lbs) – Tate was one of the league’s best kept secrets sitting behind Arian Foster, but when Foster went down with a back injury and was placed on IR, Tate became a bright spot on one of the league’s weakest offenses. Last season in 14 games (seven starts), Tate ran for 771 yards with what was effectively a revolving door at quarterback behind him. At age 25, Tate is the youngest of the backs on this list of top free agent tailbacks. (UPDATE 3/15: Ben Tate has signed with the Cleveland Browns.)
Check out our Linebackers preview from Tuesday right here.
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