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Jeremy Jones
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Greg Rosenthal

rotoworld.com

Free Agency Primer: RBs

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PRINTER FRIENDLY Offseason Low Down Archives

Unlike linemen, good running backs are easy to find. Fantasy football's favorite sons fall somewhere between linebackers and plankton (kickers) on the NFL food chain. That makes the offseason entertaining to watch, as starting-caliber players routinely trade uniforms. Here's how we see free agency at running back shaking out.

Another thing that's easy to find? A plug for our online baseball draft guide. Get the skinny on every player from our MLB pros Matthew Pouliot, Aaron Gleeman, and many more.

Possible Salary Cap Cuts

The free agent market is a moving target, which could make our list of free agents out of date in a week. Many of the biggest names to change teams in March will be veterans cut loose just before free agency starts. Here are some names on the roster bubble.

Shaun Alexander, Seahawks

This one will sting. Alexander is in denial that the Seahawks would consider asking him to take a paycut, much less cut him. If Joe Montana, Johnny U, and Jerry Rice can be forced to move on, Shaun Alexander can too.

Seattle wants a back who can play every down; Alexander can't. Now he struggles on early downs. Alexander could stick around to share work with a rookie, but his release is more likely.

Rudi Johnson, Bengals

I thought Rudi was a goner after averaging 2.9 yards-per-carry. But Kenny Irons and Chris Perry are both hurt, and it appears the Bengals will give Rudi the summer to impress them. He's still no lock to make the team.

Edgerrin James, Cardinals

I watched a lot of tape on James, and he's not done yet. He just needs some help. Put him on the Browns and he'd have a season similar to Jamal Lewis, minus the big plays. Edge is no longer a good fantasy threat, but he could be a capable committee back. The Cards need to find a rookie back to split the work with him.

LaMont Jordan, Raiders

Jordan would be easier to write off if he didn't start last season so well. He's certain to get cut, and should find a decent role elsewhere. He's already 30, but doesn't have a lot of mileage on his legs.

DeShaun Foster, Panthers

Foster is due $4.5 million from the Panthers, and has put up pedestrian numbers for years. The local writers believe he's going to get cut, but John Fox and GM Marty Hurney believe in Foster. They may convince him to accept a paycut.

Warrick Dunn, Falcons

The Falcons are near the top of any team needing a running back. Cutting Dunn will be a very unpopular move, but it's either that or a big salary reduction.

Travis Henry, Broncos

Mike Shanahan is eternally restless. Henry may be willing to take less money to stay with the team, but the Broncos may not want him back.

Top 15 Free Agent Runners

1. Marion Barber, Cowboys (Restricted Free Agent) The Barbarian is the most complete back out there, although Dallas is hesitant to let him carry the ball 300 times. They won't let him get away either. Look for the team to get a long-term deal done before free agency starts. Even if they can't come to a deal quickly, a first-round tender would prevent him leaving. He won't be backing up Julius Jones any longer.

Prediction: Cowboys: Five years, $14 million guaranteed.

2. Michael Turner, Chargers Meet the next fantasy football star. Turner has the perfect combination of experience (four-year veteran), fresh legs (228 carries), and production (5.5 career yards-per-carry). And he shouldn't cost that much.

We won't know every team searching for a back until all the cuts are made, but Turner should have a few suitors. Browns OC Rob Chudzinski coached Turner while in San Diego, but Cleveland may keep Jamal Lewis. He would fit well in Seattle or Denver if they ditch their starters. For now, Atlanta looks like the best fit. The Burner should find a starting job, making him a top-30 fantasy pick.

Prediction: Falcons: Four years, $13 million guaranteed

3. Jamal Lewis, Browns After two subpar seasons, Lewis had a shockingly resurgent campaign. He may not look as good away from Cleveland's line, but we can't discount his improved speed and athleticism. His cutbacks and vision were excellent. He improved as the year wore on. Lewis wants a huge payday, but the Browns have leverage with other options. Lewis probably won't get a better deal elsewhere.

Prediction: Browns, Two years, $13 million

. Julius Jones, Cowboys Jones burst on the scene as a rookie, but his career stalled because of poor vision and poor receiving ability. He lost confidence by the end of 2007 and has average instincts. Still, Jones has put enough solid tape out there as a starter. A second team will hope he develops late like his brother. So let's have him follow in Thomas' footsteps.

Prediction: Bears, $6 million guaranteed

5. Derrick Ward, Giants - Ward is injury prone, but he flashed a complete game as a starter in 2007. For a cheap price, he could give a team a backup with power, speed, and receiving ability. The Giants want to keep him, but a good third back is a luxury. His agent should see what's out there first.

Prediction: Seahawks, $5 million guaranteed

6. Mewelde Moore, Vikings - This versatile pro has 4.9 yards-per-carry career average and is excellent in the passing and return game. He can do a little bit of everything, and seems to be a great fit for a West Coast scheme. I'm contractually obligated to mention he went to Tulane.

Prediction: Bucs, $3 million guaranteed

7. Ron Dayne, Texans - Ronnie gets no love, but he's proven that he can close out a season out by eating some carries. He's a serviceable backup.

Prediction: Texans, $2 million

8. Michael Pittman, Bucs - The Godfather of third-down backs should get another contract, but he's nearing the finish line.

Prediction: 49ers, $2 million

10. Musa Smith, Ravens - Finally freed, Musa put up 83 yards and a score in a Week 17 start. Some team could see starter potential, but a return to Baltimore is more likely.

Prediction: Ravens, $2 million

11. Chris Brown, Titans - Brown remained a free agent until June last year, averaged 4.6 yards-per-carry, but somehow didn't rehab his value. He fades as the year goes along and could have trouble finding a job.

12. Aaron Stecker, Saints - This year's Billy Volek earned himself another season in a crowded Saints backfield. A return to Tampa is another possibility.

Prediction: Saints, $1.5 million

13. T.J. Duckett, Lions - At risk of falling out the league, Duckett impressed with a nice December run. He should get a job as a short-yardage specialist somewhere.

Prediction: Panthers, $1 million

14. Jesse Chatman, Dolphins - He looked like a pro when given the chance, getting 128 carries in his first action in three years. Chatman won't get many job offers, but his old coach Cam Cameron should bring him to camp.

Prediction: Ravens, $1 million

15. Tatum Bell, Lions - If Mike Shanahan and Mike Martz couldn't make him look good, no one will.

Prediction: Texans, $2 million

The Rest (In no particular order)

Michael Bennett, Bucs - Just about out of chances

Vernand Morency, Packers (restricted) - Should get a tender offer, but he's probably fighting for a roster spot.

Maurice Hicks, 49ers - Does enough things to get a job somewhere.

LaBrandon Toefield, Jaguars - 23 carries over the last two seasons.

Samkon Gado, Dolphins - A great waiver pickup in 2005, but running out of chances.

Artose Pinner, Saints - First player in NFL history to have exactly five carries for 46 yards for two teams in same season. That's worth something!

Travis Minor, Rams- Once in the worst committee in NFL history with Leonard Henry and Lamar Gordon. Now I'm just showing off.

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Can we all say: NO to FA Runningbacks

Rotoworld quote: Unlike linemen, good running backs are easy to find

My quote: Any year, every year.

Turner is as good as his Oline. Look at that list of all those available backs. Draft em low, trade or cut em when they reach 4 years, get another cheap.

Turner is not a Marshall Faulk or LT.

BTW: Rotoworld is considered by many as near the bottom of fantasy football advice, so their comment on Atlanta being a good fit for Turner without addressing the offensive line is ludicrious.

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grendel (2/19/2008)
falconfansince66 (2/19/2008)
Moore had a sick OL in Minnesota. No way he's going for 4+ in Atlanta right now.

He's not supposed to be our feature back, just some depth, and he can produce when called upon.

when he gets cut. pick him up one year vet minimum. otherwise I would rather have a 7th rounder with less miles on him

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Cool article.

The comment about Artose is odd though, his 5 carries and 46 rushing yards only came on 1 team, ours. He didnt have any other carries last season.

Moore is a good football player, but more of a 3rd down guy, like Pittman and Kevin Faulk.

I would prefer to get a rookie and bring in a FA guy or two.

FA RB's 75% of the time are just as good as the starters. Shoot, Darren Sproles and Turner looked like all pros out in San Diego, where the best running back in the league is.

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Legion (2/19/2008)
I like this thread.

Thats great man :w00t:

I would like to see a Power back come into the organization.. I would b thrilled to pick up Jamaal Lewis from the Browns.

It is very plain to see if Turner is signed Dunn is out. But i also see that Turner and Norwood are quite similar, making that signature very useless

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Falconfan4197 (2/20/2008)
Legion (2/19/2008)
I like this thread.

Thats great man :w00t:

I would like to see a Power back come into the organization.. I would b thrilled to pick up Jamaal Lewis from the Browns.

It is very plain to see if Turner is signed Dunn is out. But i also see that Turner and Norwood are quite similar, making that signature very useless

Turner is 230+. Norwood is 205 and plus Turner is more a power runner than Norwood. The combo would be explosive.

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Demetrius Dew (2/19/2008)
Can we all say Lamont Jordan, Jordan put up great numbers as Curtis Martins backup in NY and never panned out as a Starter in Oakland.
AMEN!!! Perfect, perfect example. The writeup on Jordan was almost exactly the same when he was a FA with the Jets. Avoid Turner like the plague. The vast majority of full-time backup RB's signing large FA contracts to become starters fail, and Turner will not be the exception to that.
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Robb4242 (2/20/2008)
brvslugger10 (2/19/2008)
If Turner is signed, you can say bye bye to Dunn. If the Falcons can't sign Turner, still say bye bye to Warrick because we will draft a RB(Forte)
AMEN!!! Perfect, perfect example. The writeup on Jordan was almost exactly the same when he was a FA with the Jets. Avoid Turner like the plague. The vast majority of full-time backup RB's signing large FA contracts to become starters fail, and Turner will not be the exception to that.

Wow, I never really thought of that. That may be what the guy meant when he said that he is a lot like Norwood. Then again, he may break-out. Kinda scary though. You're right. Forte is a nother big back, but I won't get too excited about drafting a back anyways. They said power run last year and drafted Snelling in the 7th. Yeah, he's a beast, but...

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