Ranked Available Running Backs in NFL Free Agency
NFL free agency is closing in on two full weeks, and plenty has transpired.
As I’ve mentioned previously, we’ve seen big names like DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Maclin, Andre Johnson, Ndamukong Suh and Darelle Revis finding homes, potential impact players like Eddie Royal, Harry Douglas and Ryan Mathews land teams, and crazy trades being pulled off like Sam Bradford for Nick Foles and Jimmy Graham for Max Unger.
So let Football Garbage Time give you a hand with what’s left as we rank and compile information on the top running backs still available in free agency!
1) Steven Ridley
Ridley only played 6 games in 2014 for the New England Patriots before tearing his ACL ending with only 340 yards and 2 touchdowns. And although he had a down year in 2013 and some ball security issues, there’s still potential to get back to his breakout 2012 season where he put together 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Who knows if he’ll remain a Patriot, as LaGarette Blount stepped up huge after being picked up for the stretch run. Shane Vereen has moved on to the New York Giants, but Ridley is closer to power back Blount than he is to pass catching, change of pace Vereen. The first question though will be how he recovers from his ACL tear. Reports were that he was 4 weeks ahead of schedule:
free-agent-to-be Stevan Ridley is about 4 weeks ahead of schedule in his rehab for ACL tear; is hoping to be good to go by May
— shalise manza young (@shalisemyoung) February 20, 2015
Which appears to be corroborated by Ridley’s Instagram post:
There’s been some indication that the Vikings, in light of the uncertainty surrounding Adrian Peterson, have inquired about Ridley. Of course, if Peterson stays, there would be little incentive to bring on Ridley. There’s also been some talk that the Cowboys may want Ridley now that DeMarco Murray has moved on to Philadelphia.
Seeing some buzz about Stevan Ridley and #Cowboys this morning. I'm told there's definitely interest on both sides but nothing cooking yet
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) March 13, 2015
If Ridley recovers as planned, there significant potential for him on another team and he would be well worth an incentive laden one or two year contract.
2) Pierre Thomas
Pierre Thomas was put in IR at the end of the Saints 2014 season with a rib injury and, although had a relatively cheap contract through 2016, was later cut due to the immense cap constraints the Saints created for themselves.
More #Saints news: They’ve informed veteran RB Pierre Thomas that they are releasing him, source says.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2015
And although the Baltimore Ravens showed some interest in Thomas, now that they’ve re-signed Justin Forsett, there’s little chance Thomas will get a second look.
There was some rumor that Thomas had visited with the New England Patriots:
Heard from a pretty good source that Pierre Thomas visited #Patriots earlier this week.
— Mike Loyko (@NEPD_Loyko) March 15, 2015
But nothing has resulted from that visit, if it indeed happened. Thomas is now 30 and still could be a good complementary back, but with the running back depth in the draft, it’ll be tough to find a landing spot.
3) Knowshon Moreno
Knowshon Moreno came off a career year in Denver in 2013 with over 1500 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns. But he got nowhere near that after going to the Miami Dolphins as he played only three games before tearing his ACL.
With Lamar Miller stepping up, there’s little reason for the Dolphins to re-sign Moreno, particularly since he’s coming off the ACL tear. He’ll be 28 by the time the 2015 regular season starts, and certainly has some upside, but so far, he hasn’t drawn any free agency interest. He could be a fit in New England, but there’s no indication they won’t simply go to the draft for a complementary running back.
4) Ahmad Bradshaw
Ahmad Bradshaw is going to be a tough sell. After breaking his leg in in week 11 of the 2014 season, the Colts found some stability with Vick Ballard and Dan Herron, and then added Frank Gore in free agency. So it’s unlikely Bradshaw will be back with the Colts. And he seems to be healing slowly, as he was still in a walking boot at the end of January.
And if that wasn’t bad enough for his free agency stock, Bradshaw didn’t do himself any favors getting charged with marijuana possession during a traffic stop.
There’s still potential here, but Bradshaw just turned 29 and hasn’t show much upside in the last two seasons, totaling just over 600 yards in just 13 games.
5) Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson hasn’t been anything near his 2009 2K year, but was far worse in 2014 for the New York Jets having his first ever season under 1000 rushing yards. And as such, the Jets declined Johnson’s $500,000 option bonus, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Unfortunately, Johnson’s decline has been frequently discussed since 2009, so his reputation isn’t going to help him find a home. And coming out and blaming Jet’s former GM John Idzik for his lack of production in 2014 is unlikely to enamor him with any coaching staff.
And to make matters worse, Johnson was arrested for having two semi-automatic handguns in his car in January, and then was involved in a drive by shooting in March. It appears that the shooting won’t effect his health:
Ex-#Jets RB Chris Johnson was released from the hospital after being shot in the arm, source said. No surgery. He’s home recovering
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 9, 2015
And Johnson recently confirmed that he’ll be OK:
Just left from seeing the doc and he said everything looks great! I'll be back in no time! Thank God for his … http://t.co/cfH7lGwlkt
— Chris Johnson (@ChrisJohnson28) March 20, 2015
But he still hasn’t seen any suitors since his release. I still think there’s plenty of gear left, and could see Johnson as a productive veteran on a one year incentive laden contract.
6) Steven Jackson
Steven Jackson showed little burst, but was still one of the best backs after contact in 2014. The Atlanta Falcons decided to go another direction, though, releasing Jackson in February, in all likelihood looking to acquire another running back in the draft:
Falcons released RB Steven Jackson, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 27, 2015
Well, at least Jackson himself doesn’t believe he’s at the end of the line, as he had this to say on his own site:
A lot has been written lately about my future. There are questions about my age, and what I have left in the tank. Of that, I will simply say this. For the first nine years of my career, I was used like a battering ram, punishing opposing defenses over four quarters of a game. Maybe you stopped me the first five times I got the ball, but by the 15th or 20th time I got it, late in a game — let’s just say you were really feeling me at that point.
Make no mistake: I can still punish a defense. I still have a warrior’s heart. There are 1,000-yard seasons left in these legs. I know what I am still capable of, and I have every intention of proving it.
We’ll see, as Jackson will be 32 by the beginning of the 2015 regular season, but it’s reasonable to think he at least will get a few looks before the off-season is over.