NFL Offseason 2012 Part III: Running Backs

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Which Team Will Land Their Franchise-Back?

Part II: Quarterbacks

In a star-studded free agency class, the running back position is well represented.

Lets get right to it!


Ray Rice Baltimore Ravens

Ray Rice

1.) Ray Rice:

Rice is arguably the best all-around running back in the NFL. The Ravens will do everything they can to keep Rice a Raven for life.

Rice will be looking for a long-term contract yet he would not mind signing the franchise tag if the Ravens were to offer it.

The franchise tag is a tender the team puts on their player of choice if they can not reach a long-term deal.

For those who are not familiar with the Franchise tag here is a good explanation of it:

“franchise player must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position as of a date in April of the current year in which the tag will apply, or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. Exclusive franchise players cannot negotiate with other teams.” — Wikipedia

2.) Matt Forte:

Matt Forte Chicago Bears

Matt Forte

During the season we heard grumblings from Forte’s camp about his contract, it is no secret he is unhappy and wants to get paid.


The Bears literally ran their offense around Matt Forte and when he went down with an injury, the offense struggled mightily.

Just like Rice, Forte is a great all-around back. He runs inside and outside very well, can catch the ball out of the backfield, and can pass protect very well which is a very under-rated and crucial skill for a running back to learn.

Forte will also probably get the franchise tag.

However, I see Forte really pushing for a long-term deal here. If he does not get one we can have a very ugly situation in Chicago,  the Bears can not afford to lose their star back.

Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch

3.) Marshawn Lynch:

One of the best nicknames given to running back in a long-time “Beast Mode”

Make no mistake about it, Lynch is more than just a cool nickname, he is a old-school running back with power that never goes down on the first two hits he receives.

Despite suffering an early injury, Lynch came back strong and average 105 yards per game for the remainder of the season and had some highlight runs. Seattle needs to keep Lynch, I expect them to offer Lynch a 3-4 year deal for him to stay.

Lynch is the only recognizable player the Seahawks have and they really base their offense around his running prowess.

4.) Peyton Hillis:

Peyton Hillis

Peyton Hillis

The Madden curse claims another football player.

Hillis was very ineffective this year when healthy, than you add the slew of injuries he suffered throughout the year and you have a horrible negotiating angle for a long-term contract.

He also was in the Browns “doghouse” (not seeing eye-to-eye with his coaches) during the season.

In short, it was very a frustrating and unimpressive year for Hillis.

If Hillis hits the open  market, I do not expect him to see big offers, for someone who only average 3.6 yards per carry.

Also big backs seem to have a shorter lifespan in the NFL

Mike Tolbert

Mike Tolbert

5.) Mike Tolbert:

Tolbert is an excellent utility back that can do a little bit of everything.

He specializes in short-yardage situations yet, he can make catches out of the backfield and is a tough runner to bring down in space. Tolbert is one of the most under-rated running backs in the NFL and his return to San Diego is possible but I think unlikely.

San Diego likes the combo of Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert, however they also have full-back Jacob Hester who is very similar to Tolbert and can play the same role Tolbert has this past season in San Diego’s offense.

Tolbert will want to get paid and I don’t see him maximizing his value in San Diego.

The Dallas Cowboys in my opinion would be a solid fit to go along with DeMarco Murray.

6.) Arian Foster (Restricted):

Arian Foster Houston Texans

Arian Foster

Obviously Arian Foster is one of the best running backs in the NFL, so why do I have him as the #6 Free Agent?

Well that is because he is a restricted free agent. A restricted Free Agent is a player that can be signed by another team only if the team he is currently on does not match the offer given.

Also, the Texans would receive a 1st-round pick as compensation for losing Foster.

Foster is great, but a 1st round pick being traded for a running back is just a bad deal, especially when you can find a solid running back talent in the draft in the 3rd-4th rounds. So I do not see any team trying to sign away Foster, and if they try I do not see Houston letting him walk away.

Honorable Mention(s):

Michael Bush/BenJarvis Green-Ellis:

Bush showed flashes of dominance this season when McFadden went down with a foot injury. The production was almost unnoticeable between the two. Bush is a powerful runner and a perfect compliment to McFadden in the back-field.

There will be high interest if Bush hits the open market.

There is literally a 50/50 chance Bush stays or signs elsewhere. The Raiders want to keep him so they have a more than capable back-up for the injury prone McFadden. However, if the asking price is too high I can see the Raiders addressing their needs for a back-up running back in the draft.

With their limited picks in the draft, this could lean towards giving Bush a nice pay-day.

As for the “Law Firm” I see him signing else where. The Patriots drafted running backs Stephen Ridley and Shane Vereen in the 2011 draft so this does make BenJarvis very expendable.

To his credit, Green-Ellis was solid in short yardage conversions and gave the Patriots a physical-style running attitude when needed. Unfortunately for Green-Ellis, I believe he just does not fit into what the Patriots are trying to do with their offense and with the depth they already have at running back, Green-Ellis is expendable.

Stay tuned for my next Article:  NFL Offseason 2012 Part IV: Wide Receivers

Please Follow me on Twitter @Peterd024


About peteydeez
College Graduate from St. John's University with Bachelor Science Degree in Sport Management - Sports Enthusiast - Jets/Mets/Rangers/Knicks Fan

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