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Free Agency Preview - RBs

Postby The Lung » Thu Feb 08, 2007 2:21 pm

From Rotoworld: http://www.rotoworld.com/content/features/column.aspx?sport=NFL&columnid=59&articleid=27743

FA Preview: Running Backs

The best running backs available this off-season aren't unrestricted free agents. Yet. For a runner's contract to end, he usually has to be wearing down, injury-prone, or untested. There are some interesting options like Ahman Green, Dominic Rhodes, and Chris Brown, but they all have question marks.

Our list of restricted free agents, possible cap casualties, and trade candidates is much more interesting. Michael Turner of the Chargers is a fantasy football star waiting to happen – if San Diego is willing to let him go. Willis McGahee, Thomas Jones, Ricky Williams, and Clinton Portis could possibly be acquired for the right price. Corey Dillon, Jamal Lewis, and Travis Henry will be available for free if they can't restructure their current deals.

There may not be many true "workhorse" backs available, but the NFL is slowly getting back to preferring a timeshare in the backfield. There are plenty of worthy committee members available for interested teams.

Unrestricted Free Agents

1. Ahman Green, Packers - Green enjoyed a solid comeback season, but wore down with only 3.4 yards-per-carry in the second half of the year. Green is versatile and would be better off sharing the workload. The Packers may decide it's time to start fresh and let him leave.

2. Chris Brown, Titans - A promising career was derailed in Tennessee by incessant injuries and a bad attitude entering 2006. Brown wears down and isn't great near the goal. Still, he's an explosive player who would be a great third-down back in tandem with a bruiser. His style would fit zone blocking teams like Houston, Green Bay, and Denver well.

3. Dominic Rhodes, Colts - The playoffs made Dominic Rhodes a lot of money. He's now likely to be overpaid by a team hoping he runs like he did in January 2007 as opposed to his weak efforts in the 2005 and 2006 season. We doubt the Colts could afford to keep him.

4. Ron Dayne, Texans - After the best month of his career (429 yards in four games), Dayne damaged his free agency value by sitting out Week 17. He's always nicked up. It's hard to imagine another team would want him more than the Texans.

5. Najeh Davenport, Steelers - Pittsburgh's own Rocco DeMaro believes the Steelers will want Davenport back. There weren't many teams interested last off-season and it appears he'll never be a starter in the NFL like I imagined.

6. Musa Smith, Ravens - There's a lot of talent here, but Smith just can't stay healthy. He's a fine target as a third-down back because he'll come so cheaply.

7. Sammy Morris, Dolphins - Versatile and intelligent, Morris can fill a variety of roles. He does plenty of things well enough, but doesn't excel at any of them. He seems like the kind of player Philadelphia and New England would be interested in.

8. Justin Griffith, Falcons - A quality fullback/third-tailback option. He'll get a starting job somewhere.

9. Correll Buckhalter, Eagles - Buckhalter was a great story last season, but most teams will be afraid of his knee surgeries. A return to Philadelphia is the most likely scenario.

10. Anthony Thomas, Bills - Had a serviceable three-game run as a starter in which he compiled 299 total yards in three games. I'm shocked at the positive things I found written about Thomas in my notebook. Dick Jauron may want him back to play behind a starter to be named later.

11. TJ Duckett, Redskins - Sending two third-round picks for Duckett was the worst trade of 2006. He isn't guaranteed to stay in the league this season.

12. Stephen Davis, Rams - His comeback from microfracture surgery was solid, but he still may not get a job in 2007.

13. Marcel Shipp, Cardinals - Hasn't topped three yards-per-carry in two seasons.

14. Mike Alstott, Bucs - Probably will retire.

15. LaBrandon Toefield, Jaguars
16. Tony Fisher, Rams
17. Patrick Pass, Patriots

Restricted Free Agents

1. Michael Turner, Chargers – Fantasy owners are always looking for the new stud running back. Michael Turner should be that guy, but will it be in 2007 or 2008? Chargers GM A.J. Smith loves acquiring draft picks, so he'll listen to offers for Turner. I may be wrong, but it seems unlikely that anyone would give up a first round pick for Turner. Why not just draft your own guy? It would be cheaper because Turner will almost certainly require a contract extension.

There is virtually no chance someone will sign Turner away with an offer sheet. San Diego will place a first-round tender on him, if not a first-and-third-round tender. Both New York teams have reportedly shown interest, and Turner played under Jets coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer in San Diego. Baltimore is a great fit. In the end, I think San Diego will keep their valuable LT2 insurance unless they are blown away by an offer. I give Turner a 60-40 chance of staying put.

2. Maurice Hicks, 49ers - San Francisco should welcome third-down type back into the fold.

3. Artose Pinner, Vikings - The one-week wonder could stick because Minnesota has been so hot and cold on Mewelde Moore and Ciatrick Fason.

4. Shaud Williams, Bills - May not get a contract.

Trade Candidates

I covered all of these guys in my Off-season lowdown a few weeks ago, so you'll get the short version here.

1. Clinton Portis, Redskins - Washington may poke around the trade market, but Portis wouldn't be that cheap to move because of cap issues. He's not the problem on the Redskins offense.

2. Willis McGahee, Bills - At this point, I would be surprised if Willis McGahee was on the Bills in 2007. The team's website has said as much a few times. McGahee will probably want a contract extension with any possible move.

It's uncertain how other teams will view McGahee. He isn't great in the passing game and has a 3.9 yards-per-carry average. Green Bay, Cleveland, and both New York teams are possibilities.

3. Thomas Jones, Bears - Jones would fit great on the Giants or any team that needed someone to share the load, especially on passing downs. Unless Chicago gets a first-day pick, they may as well hold on to him.

4. Deuce McAllister, Saints - He's been mentioned in trade rumors, but we're not sure why the Saints would mess with what's working. Maybe next off-season.

5. Julius Jones, Cowboys - It all depends on what the new coach wants to do. Perhaps Norv Turner could turn Jones' career around.

6. Ricky Williams, Dolphins - New coach Cam Cameron seems open to keeping Ricky around. We bet that would change if someone offers a mid-round pick for him. Considering his history, that seems unlikely.

7. Tatum Bell, Broncos – Mike Shanahan was disappointed in Tatum Bell's fumbles at the end of the year. Denver should look aggressively to upgrade, and could be involved in the bigger names on this list. If nothing works out in free agency, they can wait for the draft. The Bell and Bell backfield isn't a terrible fallback option.

Cap Casualty Candidates

1. Lamont Jordan, Raiders – Jordan was a bust last season, but so was the whole Raiders offense. He may bristle at taking a small paycut, but I just don't see Oakland giving up offensive talent for free. He will probably stay in Oakland.

2. Travis Henry, Titans – Tennessee has to restructure Henry's contract. While it makes sense for both sides to come to a deal, Henry has never hit free agency as a pro. He may want to see what he can earn coming off a strong season. And do the Titans want to make a huge investment a year after drafting Lendale White?

3. Deshaun Foster, Panthers – While cutting Foster makes some sense to us, all indications from the Panthers are that he will stay.

4. Corey Dillon, Patriots – Dillon does not seem ready to be asked to take a paycut. That's his only chance of staying in New England. It would be a minor upset if he's back.

5. Jamal Lewis, Ravens – If Lewis didn't like the market for his services last off-season, he isn't likely to enjoy this one either. It will be a tough transition for him to become a backup, but that's what is likely to happen.

6. Kevan Barlow, Jets – Certain to get cut. Not so certain to get re-signed.

7. Mike Anderson, Ravens – He's likely to stay unless Baltimore loads up at the position.

8. Derrick Blaylock, Jets – Will have trouble finding a job. Could fit in St. Louis or somewhere looking for a

Teams Looking for Running Backs

Running back is the easiest position in the NFL to fill via the draft, so teams can be cautious in free agency. Even franchises that need a starter can sign a backup type and hope to find a gem on day one of the draft.

1. Packers - Ahman Green is an unrestricted free agent. Reports came out early in the off-season that a contract was close, but perhaps Green Bay is reconsidering after reviewing how badly Green tired in the second half of the season. We think it's time to start over. Vernand Morency could be a nice third-down back, but he's not a starter.

2. Browns - Cleveland would seemingly prefer Reuben Droughns to be a backup or a fullback. Jason Wright won't ever get 62 carries in a season again. Cleveland owns the third or fourth pick in the draft. If they don't make a splash at running back in free agency, they will probably draft Adrian Peterson.

3. Ravens - Musa Smith is a free agent and can't stay healthy. Mike Anderson is a highly paid backup, but should return. Jamal Lewis is due a $5 million bonus and will be released. While it's possible Baltimore could bring Lewis back, they are as likely as any team to aggressively look for a new runner in free agency.

They like bruisers, so Michael Turner, Corey Dillon, and Ricky Williams are all possibilities. They also could get involved in the McGahee sweepstakes.

3. Bills - At this point, I'll be surprised if Willis McGahee isn't traded this off-season. Anthony Thomas is a free agent, so Buffalo will be starting from scratch. They could re-sign Thomas and add a better talent to start, whether through free agency or the draft.

4. Jets - Kevan Barlow and Derrick Blaylock are cooked. Cedric Houston is Just A Guy, so that means the Jets will look for someone to pair with Leon Washington. We believe that Washington could grow into a primary role like Brian Westbrook, but the Jets probably don't want to bet the farm on it.

5. Texans - Domanick Davis/Williams is a mystery. The Texans will be pleasantly surprised if he makes the roster. Wali Lundy has potential to be a decent backup, while Samkon Gado and Chris Taylor aren't guaranteed roster spots. Ron Dayne is a free agent and there is a good chance he'll return. Who will want him more? But Houston needs a true starter and it's someone who hasn't played for them before.

6. Giants - There are questions about Brandon Jacobs' ability to handle the load by himself. At the very least, New York should pair him with a solid third-down back. Dominic Rhodes, Musa Smith, and Ahman Green are all possibilities.

7. Broncos - Mike Shanahan noted at his season-ending presser that Tatum Bell had a higher yards-per-carry average than Laurence Maroney. It was Bell's fumbles that did him in. Mike Shanahan will add talent to the position through free agency or the draft, possibly both. Chris Brown, Julius Jones, and Ricky Williams could all be fits.

8. Lions - Kevin Jones' foot might be healed in time for the 2007 season, but no one knows for sure. Brian Calhoun, his backup, is coming off a torn ACL. The Lions should be interested in a veteran to hold down the fort during the summer.

9. Titans - Travis Henry's contract will need to be restructured in order for him to stay. It makes sense for both sides to work out a deal. Other than Henry, Lendale White is the only decent option on the roster.

10. Eagles - Correll Buckhalter is a free agent and there's a good chance he'll be back in Philadelphia. That may not prevent the Eagles from looking around for a complement to Brian Westbrook. They usually save money at running back, so don't expect a big splash.

11. Steelers- Willie Parker hasn't been much of a factor on passing downs. Najeh Davenport is a free agent and Verron Haynes is coming off a torn ACL, so Pittsburgh could use some depth.

12. Vikings - On paper, Mewelde Moore and Ciatrick Fason look like decent backups, but Brad Childress seems unwilling to use them. He should fine someone he likes.

13. Raiders - LaMont Jordan is still under contract and is likely to stay. Justin Fargas showed he could be a passable backup. More talent wouldn't hurt, but it's not a priority for Oakland. A mid-to-late round draft pick makes sense.

14. Seahawks - Seattle should either use Maurice Morris in passing situations more or start grooming an heir apparent to Shaun Alexander.

15. Rams - Steven Jackson is a hoss, but an upgrade over Stephen Davis could help keep him fresh. Marshall Faulk seems likely to stay retired.

16. Colts - If Dominic Rhodes leaves, the Colts may look for a veteran backup to Joseph Addai. It would be a high-upside spot for fantasy leaguers.

17. Falcons - Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood are a decent twosome, but will they fit Atlanta's new scheme? Bobby Petrino may draft a power back or could sign one via free agency.
(~);}

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(~);}
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Postby dgan » Thu Feb 08, 2007 10:54 pm

I would leap for fantasy joy if McGahee goes to a good team...my keeper goes from solid to outstanding!
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Postby Kilroy » Fri Feb 09, 2007 12:55 am

dgan wrote:I would leap for fantasy joy if McGahee goes to a good team...my keeper goes from solid to outstanding!


Agreed. that 3.9 YPC is attributable in large part to playing in Buffalo behind a mediocre (at best) line with a mediocre (at best) passing game.

Some intriguing names on that list. Be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
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Postby The Balanced Man » Fri Feb 09, 2007 8:43 am

Spectacular post again lung. thanks. ;-D
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Postby McPeePants » Fri Feb 09, 2007 4:24 pm

The issue with McGahee really surprises me.
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Postby BlueBandit24 » Fri Feb 09, 2007 5:30 pm

A lot of good trade bait out there, a few of those guys could become studs with another roster.
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Postby daullaz » Sat Feb 10, 2007 12:53 pm

Re: McGahee

Maybe the Bills can trade him to the Browns for a second or third round pick. Maybe Peterson falls to the Bills at #12. At the very least they could replace McGahee with Marshawn Lynch. Wouldn't that be something?
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Postby FantasyMan13 » Sat Feb 10, 2007 1:52 pm

Wow, another mediocre group of FA's. I think the cream of the crop this year in regard to FAs will be on the defensive side.
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Postby onnestabe » Sat Feb 10, 2007 4:41 pm

FantasyMan13 wrote:Wow, another mediocre group of FA's. I think the cream of the crop this year in regard to FAs will be on the defensive side.


A lot of the analysts are predicting that most of the marquee names that are scheduled to become free agents this offseason will get re-signed or franchise-tagged by their current teams. The reasoning is that because most teams have a lot of cap room, the big-name guys that do make it to free agency will be in for a big pay day, which makes it very unlikely that players will test free agency and then decide to return to their old teams. Better to make sure they don't hit the market.
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Postby killiansjmd » Sun Feb 11, 2007 7:25 am

daullaz wrote:Re: McGahee

Maybe the Bills can trade him to the Browns for a second or third round pick. Maybe Peterson falls to the Bills at #12. At the very least they could replace McGahee with Marshawn Lynch. Wouldn't that be something?


The Jets and Giants will both give up a s.econd or third round pick for McGahee as well. I think the price will be higher for him than that.
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