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Aaron Jones, Kenyan Drake, Chris Carson avoid franchise tag, to hit free agency

The running back position will have some big names hitting the open market when 2021 NFL free agency opens on March 17th. We break down some key names that avoided the franchise tag.

Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers walks across the field before the NFC Championship game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field on January 24, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The deadline for NFL teams to franchise tag players was Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. ET, and quite a few big names are poised to hit the open market in free agency. Several desirable running backs were among the players left without a tag. We’ve identified a few of the most coveted targets at the position. Here are some of the top options that could don new colors in 2021.

Aaron Jones

Jones is on the tail end of back-to-back seasons with over 1,000 rushing yards and thrived as the Green Bay Packers feature back in 2019 and 2020. His versatility made him an effective option on the ground and through the air, and he’s sure to attract tons of interest from teams looking to improve their backfields. Jones is looking for a lucrative, multi-year deal. He’s been linked to a few franchises over the past month. The Miami Dolphins, San Francisco, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Chicago Bears were named potential suitors by Forbes Sports’ Evan Massey.

Kenyan Drake

Drake was underwhelming playing under the transition tag in 2020. He ranked seventh in carries with 239 but only rushed for 995 yards as the Arizona Cardinals’ top option. He picked things up in the back half of the season and finished the year with 10 rushing touchdowns, but his overall performance wasn’t close to good enough to earn him a long-term deal. Chase Edmonds is poised to take over as the RB1 in Arizona, and Drake could be hard-pressed to find legitimate starter money in 2021.

Chris Carson

Carson notched more than 1,000 rushing yards in 2018 and 2019, but his stats dropped in 2020 because of injuries. He played in 12 games for the Seattle Seahawks last season and amassed just 681 rushing yards while splitting time with Carlos Hyde. Carson was effective last season and reached career highs in yards per carry (4.8), receiving yards (287), and receiving touchdowns. He’s still very effective, but it’s unlikely that he’ll sign a big-time deal with Seattle now that Russell Wilson has made it known that he’d like the offensive line to be a priority. Carson is good but hasn’t blossomed into a star just yet.