NFL Free Agency: Landing Spots for Notable Running Backs

NFL free agency is a week away and the list of running backs continues to grow with the recent rumored release of Joe Mixon. The market for the running back position is more complicated than ever, making it difficult to predict where certain players will end up. In this article, I’ll figure out the most likely landing spot for each stud running back available.

Note: This list is not a ranking of these players.

Predicting Landing Spots for Free Agent Running Backs

1. Saquon Barkley 

Prediction: Houston Texans

The Texans are currently the favorite to sign Barkley and the fit makes a ton of sense. They lack a talented, workhorse back like Barkley and they’re entering a win-now window. Houston currently sits fourth in cap space, with a bit over 70 million to spend. Houston insider Aaron Wilson reported that Barkley has been in communication with C.J. Stroud in the past week. 

2. Derrick Henry

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens

The legend’s time in Tennessee is likely over, but his days as a meaningful running back are not. Henry likely has two more years of valuable production before his play fully declines. Baltimore was rumored to be interested in trading for Henry at the most recent trade deadline, however, the two sides were unable to come to a deal. Henry could be exactly what the Ravens need: An excuse to pound the football and regain their identity as a run-first team.

3. Josh Jacobs

Prediction: Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders currently have $45 million in cap space, ranking 10th in the league. That’s more than enough to resign Jacobs, who’s become easily one of the best players on the team. The past Zeigler-McDaniels regime was resistant to giving Jacobs the payday he deserved, but new management is in town now. Losing Jacobs would likely turn the Raiders into a bottom-five offense, something new GM Tom Telesco likely sees.

4. Tony Pollard

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys

NFL circles aren’t extremely high on Pollard. He’s shown above-average ability to catch the ball, but his ability to run in between the tackles leaves much to be desired. It was clear Dallas was missing a power back to complement Pollard’s ability. If the Cowboys can acquire that type of back through draft or free agency, Pollard will play much better. Dallas will likely get him back for cheaper than expected due to the over-saturation of the position’s market. 

5. Austin Ekeler

Prediction: Denver Broncos

Ekeler’s time with Los Angeles has likely run its course. He proved himself to be one of, if not the best pass-catching back for a few seasons not long ago. Ekeler was never the fastest at his position and it was clear last year that he had lost some juice. Still, he can provide good value as a pass-catching specialist. Here, Sean Payton brings him in to compliment Javonte Williams in an Alvin Kamara-type role. 

6. D’Andre Swift

Prediction: Chicago Bears

Whether in Detroit or Philadelphia, Swift has proven his worth as a versatile back with top-end speed. He racked up over 1,000 yards on an extremely impressive 4.6 yards per carry. His underutilization in the Eagles’ offense could point to there still being untapped potential within Swift. The Bears should have great interest in upgrading the running back position. Khalil Herbert is likely only a 3rd down running back while Roschon Johnson has shown potential, but isn’t ready to be a full-time starter. Swift could be a fantastic running mate for Johnson.

7. Dalvin Cook

Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles

With D’Andre Swift moving on in this scenario, the Eagles snatch Dalvin Cook. The elder Cook didn’t play much last season for reasons that were out of his control. The Jets were expected to be contenders before Aaron Rodgers got injured. When he went down, so did Cook’s chances of getting meaningful snaps behind second-year star Breece Hall. After a year of rest, Cook should have a couple of decent years left in him. The Eagles would likely draft a back to pair with Cook in this scenario.

8. Joe Mixon

Prediction: Tennessee Titans

Derrick Henry moving on leaves a massive hole at the running back spot. It’s unreasonable to commit big dollars to the position, especially in Brian Callahan’s first year as Head Coach. With Tyjae Spears showing positive signs, they’ll play him more often than how he was used as a rookie. Joe Mixon would be a solid pairing with Spears. Not only does he have a rapport with Callahan who was his Offensive Coordinator in Cincinnati, but he could provide a boost in the power running game that the smaller Spears doesn’t excel at.

9. J.K. Dobbins

Prediction: New York Giants

The biggest wildcard on this list is none other than J.K. Dobbins. After a promising rookie year in which he averaged six yards a carry, major injuries have gotten in the way of his development. Since 2020 he’s played sparingly, but still shows signs of being the dominant back he was at Ohio State. In this scenario, New York could get a huge bargain on Dobbins and pair him with another free-agent running back or a rookie.

10. Zach Moss

Prediction: New Orleans Saints

It might’ve not been for long, but there was a three-week period where Zach Moss was among the league leaders in rushing. He did much more than he was asked of during Jonathan Taylor‘s early season absence. Taylor’s contract makes it unlikely for Moss to return to Indianapolis which is where New Orleans comes in. Alvin Kamara isn’t getting any younger and last year’s Jamaal Williams signing was a massive failure. In Moss, the Saints can get a solid goal-line back that’s capable of taking the hits that Kamara shouldn’t.

Main Image: Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

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