Now that we've looked at a few of the big name quarterbacks that should be available once free agency begins, it's now time to look at the running backs that may be available, and what team makes the most sense for each.
Now this year's available running back class is one that is loaded with talent. Their respected teams are currently working behind the scenes to work out a long term deal with each one of these players, and if they can't get a deal done, the franchise tag looms for each. The deadline for teams to apply the franchise tag is March 5, so there is some time to get a deal done. If a long term deal isn't reached, then each running back that is tagged will receive a one year salary of roughly $7.7 million dollars. That's not exactly chump change, but if a long term deal gets reached, the player will most likely receive $15-20 million dollars in guaranteed money.
Ray Rice, Arian Foster, Matt Forte, and Marshawn Lynch should all be returning to their respective teams, whether with the franchise tag or a long term contract. So taking those four out of the equation, there are still some interesting names out there that should find a new home in 2012.
When the Oakland Raiders selected Michael Bush with the first pick in the 4th round of the 2007 NFL Draft, most draft experts believed he was a steal and would make the Raiders immediately better once he regained his health. If you remember, Bush broke his leg in his final season at the University of Louisville, which significantly dropped his draft stock. But after getting to full strength in 2008, he has been a nice complement to Darren McFadden.
Bush was thrown into the lineup a lot during his tenure with Oakland due to the fact that McFadden could never stay healthy. One specific game should earn Bush a nice payday once free agency begins. When the Raiders faced the San Diego Chargers in Week 10 this past season, Bush racked up 242 yards from scrimmage that day, highlighting a 24-17 victory. The Contra Costa Times reported this week that the Raiders will not use the franchise tag on Bush, which makes a lot of sense considering they still have McFadden under contract.
When it comes to finding a good fit for Bush, the buck stops with the Cincinnati Bengals. Former Raiders' head coach Hue Jackson is now on the Bengals staff, and current Bengal RB Cedric Benson is a pending free agent who probably won't be retained. Bush would be a great fit in Cincinnati, teaming up with the great rookie tandem of QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green.
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
To the casual fan, the name Mike Tolbert might not ring any bells. But for the real football buffs, the name is synonymous with a bowling ball. A 5'9” and 240+, the former Charger is your prototypical third down short yardage back, but I believe he can be more than just that. He is only 26 years old and doesn't have a lot of wear and tear on his body, and is also a huge asset in the passing game, hauling in 54 balls in 2011.
I can't see the Chargers slapping Tolbert with the franchise tag considering they already gave first round money to Ryan Mathews, so Tolbert should have a new team in 2012. I currently have it narrowed down to two: St. Louis and Dallas. New Rams' head coach Jeff Fisher is going to commit to running the football, and new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has also been quoted as saying he would like two capable backs. The Cowboys' could also use some insurance at the position after Felix Jones' injury. Now that Demarco Murray has made a name for himself, I can see both teams making an offer to Tolbert, with Tolbert going to St. Louis at the end of the day.
Prediction: St. Louis Rams
Green-Ellis should see plenty of action once free agency opens in the next few weeks. With the Patriots using second day picks on Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley last year, it just doesn't make sense for them to bring Green-Ellis back at this point. He has been a capable back for the Pats over the past few years, but it's time for him to move on and get a fresh start with a new organization.
When I say "fresh start," that does however come with familiarity as well. The Kansas City Chiefs will be in the market for a RB, and Green-Ellis may be just what the doctor (or law firm) ordered. Green-Ellis already has a history with Chiefs' GM Scott Pioli, who drafted him in 2008 when he was with the Patriots. Current Chiefs' RB Jamaal Charles was lost for the season in 2011 due to a torn ACL, so the Chiefs are unsure how he will bounce back in 2012, but it's not often where a player can return to form right away after a torn ACL; it’s usually a two year process to get back to 100%. So the Chiefs are going to need a plan in case Charles can't go, and with Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones both pending free agents as well, a reunion of Pioli and Green-Ellis makes the most sense for both parties.
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
Other notables: Peyton Hillis (Prediction: Re-signs with Cleveland), Cedric Benson (Prediction: San Diego Chargers), and Justin Forsett (Prediction: Oakland Raiders).
Fan Hub Action
Jeanne-Marie Jansen Lowell May 23rd
Greatest relief pitcher EVER! Someday we can all tell our grandchildren we got to see him pitch. A true legend!
Charlie Lobosco May 23rd
Ask Craig; I’ll say it again; not the best relief pitcher ever; the best MLB player ever. Yes, that includes everyone.
Jim Lowell May 23rd
Great tribute to a great player, a great Yankee, and a great man.Thank you!
Frank Lowell May 23rd
Great job, Ryan! As a life-long Yankee hater since the 1950’s in the closing days of the Brooklyn Dodgers, I can only sit back and…
Tiffany Riddle May 23rd
Love the article, and I completely agree!
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
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