Free agency is barreling toward us and it’s time to start wishing and hoping your favorite team makes the right choices. Below, I have our Top-10 unrestricted free agent running backs for 2020. Some of these players will be re-signed or might get the franchise tag, so the odds of the whole group moving on to other teams isn’t good, but nobody wants to pay up for a running back nowadays, so we could see quite a bit of player movement.
Running backs have lost a ton of value as teams have found they can win with role playing backs and good to great quarterbacks and offensive lines. We see that play out often in the Super Bowl, including last season when a Dolphins cast-off, Damien Williams, was the lead back for the Chiefs and Raheem Mostert, who had shuffled around the league, was the lead back for the 49ers.
The franchise tag may be applied starting February 25th and ending March 10th. “Legal tampering” is March 16th-18th, which means teams can start entering contract negotiations. Then, at 4pm eastern on March 18th free agency officially begins, and teams may begin signing players or trading players who are still under contract.
1. Derrick Henry
Henry was the rushing king last year and dominated in the Titans playoff win but the track record for running backs who get paid in free agency is awful, which should depress his contract numbers. And the fact that he’s not a good receiver hurts him as well, as there aren’t many teams who want to pay a one-dimensional back as much as he’s likely looking for. The good news for Henry is that the Titans have built their offense around his ability, so they will likely do all they can to retain his services.
Gordon has put up big numbers for the Chargers but his efficiency hasn’t been great, whereas restricted free agent Austin Ekeler is much more dynamic and the Chargers have Justin Jackson if they don’t think Ekeler can handle a big workload. Gordon will likely move on to a new team and probably won’t get close to what he wants after sitting out a big chunk of 2019.
3. Kenyan Drake
Drake played great for the Cardinals after being traded from the Dolphins. He fits their offense well and the Cardinals may end up cutting David Johnson if they can’t trade him. Drake likely won himself a new contract with the Arizona last season.
4. Carlos Hyde
Hyde out-performed expectations in Houston last season and coach Bill O’Brien likely will value his services more than the bulk of the league. He fits O’Brien’s need for a bruising back to go along with DeShaun Watson’s versatility and he would likely remain the starter. It’s hard to see him moving on from Houston this offseason, but he won’t have a big pay day.
5. Jordan Howard
Howard played well for the Eagles while healthy but he did miss a chunk of games with a shoulder injury. Like Hyde, he’s mostly a between the tackles runner who doesn’t bring enough versatility to command a big contract. The Eagles could move on from Howard, as they seem to be fine mixing and matching backs.
6. DeAndre Washington
Washington is versatile and a piece that could help most teams. With Josh Jacobs entrenched as the starter, Washington will more than likely move on to a spot he can at least have a shot at more work.
7. Jonathan Williams
Williams likely drew a little interest his way after filling in for Marlon Mack and putting up back-to-back 100 yard rushing games, but we have to consider his offensive line and the Colts commitment to the run as well. Williams probably won himself a contract with a new team though.
8. LeSean McCoy
McCoy looked like the best runner on the Chiefs for much of the season, but his fumbling put him in the doghouse. If he has anything left in the tank, he’ll need to prove it on a one-year deal somewhere other than KC.
9. Chris Thompson
Thompson’s injury history isn’t going to give him many options in free agency. His ability before his rash of injuries was of a player who could secure a good bag of cash in free agency, but it is probably too late for that now. If he can prove he is healthy on a one-year contract he might be able to get an extension, but his history and age are fighting against him.
10. Lamar Miller
Miller tore his ACL and won’t be fully healed as free agency starts. He’ll need to prove he is healthy and win a job somewhere through a workout.