NFL free agency

2024 NFL Free Agency: Top Five Running Backs

Out of all the markets to gauge in NFL free agency, the running back position is probably the toughest to get a handle on. Nowadays, teams are hesitant to hand out the big bucks to any back, no matter how they’ve performed in the past. A few have voiced their frustration due to that fact but it hasn’t moved the needle except for Jonathan Taylor, who signed a three-year, $42M extension with the Indianapolis Colts.

With all of that being said, this year’s free agent market for running backs has a few big names. That’ll make it interesting to see how everything shakes out with that being the case.

2024 NFL Free Agency: Top Five Running Backs

1. Saquon Barkley

In 2022, Saquon Barkley rushed for a career-high 1,312 yards and had 6 touchdowns. He was a big reason why the New York Giants made and won a playoff game. Fast forward to 2023 and things took a turn downhill as a whole. Things went awry from the beginning for New York as they finished the season 6-11 as a result of quarterback and offensive line issues. Despite that, Barkley was one of the few bright spots on the team.

He recorded 1,242 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns while ranking seventh in rushing yards per game with 68.7. With plenty of explosive plays both in the running and passing game left in the tank, signing with a new team could motivate Saquon into even new heights for next season.

2. Derrick Henry

Despite entering free agency at 30 years old as a running back, Derrick Henry will have a lot of interest with the amount of game he has left. For a few years, he was known as the best running back in the league. Henry has led the league twice in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns while also eclipsing over 2,000 yards in a single season back in 2020. Since then he has still put up numbers that show no signs of slowing down.

This past season, Henry led the league in rushing attempts (280), ranked second in rushing yards (1,167), and was tied for seventh in rushing touchdowns (12). It looks like the King will be headed somewhere other than Tennessee so with his durability and still playing at an elite level, he can make a huge impact on a team that is a running back away.

3. Josh Jacobs

The final games of the Josh McDaniels era were tough for Josh Jacobs. After leading the league in rushing yards in 2022, he wasn’t able to capture that form in what became an ugly start to the season. After the fallout of McDaniels and Antonio Pierce becoming interim head coach, he showed everyone why he is one of the most sought-after backs in the game.

In just 13 games, Jacobs had 805 rushing yards and six touchdowns while passing 1,100 scrimmage yards yet again. He averaged four yards per carry and 76.3 rushing yards per game over the final six games of the season. With Pierce at the helm now in Vegas, it’ll be interesting to see what Jacobs does being how he was a big factor in the new regime. Jacobs just turned 26 and will be a valuable asset to any team moving forward. He could be looking at a hefty multi-year deal on the open market, whether that’s with Vegas or not.

4. Austin Ekeler

After not getting the contract he thought he deserved from the Los Angeles ChargersAustin Ekeler averaged just 3.5 yards per rush and 4.6 yards per touch, both career lows. In 14 games, he rushed for just 628 yards and 5 touchdowns. This comes after leading the NFL in scrimmage yards in 2021 and 2022.

His situation and injuries might’ve played a factor but Ekeler is still a dangerous duel-threat running back, gaining 436 yards and a touchdown through the air in 2023. He still has all the assets in his game to be a game-changer for any team, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be for the Chargers in 2024.

5. Tony Pollard

For the second consecutive season, Tony Pollard rushed for a 1,000-yard season (1,005) and passed 1,300 yards from scrimmage (311 yards receiving). He seems like a perfect complement to that passing game in Dallas. In 2022, he had 5.9 yards per touch, leading the league in that category.

With that being said, there were questions around the league as to how he’d perform as the go-to in the run game. Even though he hit 1,000 yards rushing again, his yards per touch went way down to 4.3, ranking 27th among backs with 200-plus touches. Pollard is still wanted back in Dallas by players and will be hard to imagine Jerry moving on, but if they do, he could get a decent contract somewhere else.

Next Best Available:

D’Andre Swift
Zack Moss
J.K. Dobbins
A.J. Dillon
Gus Edwards
Ezekiel Elliott
Kareem Hunt
Devin Singletary
Antonio Gibson

Main Image: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

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