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2024 NFL free agency: Ranking top 10 running backs available, projected contracts, best team fits


If we learned one thing from the last NFL offseason, it’s that the league doesn’t want to pay running backs. A total of six NFL players were franchise-tagged last year, with half of them being running backs. The three running backs were the only players of the six who did not eventually receive long, lucrative contract extensions. 

It turned into a major storyline, with players like Austin Ekeler, Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry voicing their frustrations. What’s fascinating is that even more big-name running backs are free agents this offseason.

We did see one running back “break through” last year in Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts, who signed a three-year, $42 million extension that made him the No. 3 highest-paid running back in the league. However, it was actually Zack Moss who was the Colts’ leading rusher in 2023. Did the Taylor contract just prove NFL owners’ theories that running backs are more replaceable than other positions? Did the Taylor contract provide a new “floor” for free agents to shoot for? 

Below, we will break down the top-10 free-agent running backs, and discuss a couple of potential landing spots as well as what their contracts could look like. 

Edwards had a career year with 810 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, which was tied for fifth-most in the NFL. The “Gus Bus” has been effective when called upon over the past five years for Baltimore, but did miss the 2021 campaign due to injury. Edwards turns 29 in April, and could be an affordable addition for a team looking to boost its ground game.

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Landing spots: Ravens, Chargers, Cowboys

Spotrac’s market value: 1 year, $3,639,043 ($3.6M AAV, No. 23 highest-paid RB)

Dobbins is the other Ravens running back looking for a new deal. The Ohio State product burst onto the scene with 925 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie, but a torn ACL cost him the entire 2021 season, another knee injury cost him half the 2022 season, and then a torn Achilles suffered in Week 1 cost him the 2023 season. Dobbins probably isn’t going to find the market he and his representation are hoping for due to his injury history, but when healthy, Dobbins has looked like a star. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been healthy very much. 

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Landing spots: Chargers, Chiefs, Bengals

Spotrac’s market value: 2 years, $4,367,976 ($2.1M AAV, No. 35 highest-paid RB)

Dillon rushed for 613 yards and two touchdowns in 2023 while averaging a career-low 3.4 yards per attempt. He crossed 1,100 scrimmage yards in 2021 and got to 976 scrimmage yards in 2022. “Quadzilla” is more than just a short-yardage running back, although that is undoubtedly his calling card. Since entering the league in 2020, Dillon has averaged 4.1 yards per attempt and rushed for 16 touchdowns. Could he benefit from a change of scenery?

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Landing spots: Packers, Bills, Cowboys

Spotrac’s market value: 1 year, $3,590,066 ($3.5M AAV, No. 23 highest-paid RB)

7. Zack Moss, Indianapolis Colts

Moss had a career year with 794 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 183 carries. He also added 192 yards and two more touchdowns through the air, stepping up in a big way while Taylor missed seven games due to injury. The former Bill told reporters earlier this year that he’s open to returning to Indianapolis, but the Colts probably aren’t going to want to pay two running backs. Granted, it remains to be seen what Moss’ market will look like.

Moss had never averaged more than 37 rushing yards per game until 2023. It’s clear he benefitted from Shane Steichen’s system, which makes me think his interest in returning to the Colts is genuine. 

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Landing spots: Eagles, Browns, Colts

Spotrac’s market value: 2 years, $9,264,528 ($4.6M AAV, No. 18 highest-paid RB)

Swift ranked fifth in rushing yards this past season with 1,049 and five touchdowns — his first-ever 1,000-yard campaign. He recorded a career-high 1,263 yards from scrimmage to go along with six total touchdowns, making his first Pro Bowl. Swift just turned 25, so he’s one of the younger running backs hitting free agency. Philly didn’t use him as a receiver as much as Detroit did, but Swift still had a career year. 

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Landing spots: Patriots, Eagles, Broncos

Spotrac’s market value: 4 years, $27,153,696 ($6.7M AAV, No. 8 highest-paid RB)

5. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

Ekeler returned to the Chargers after fighting for the new contract he didn’t receive, and averaged a career-low in yards per rush (3.5) and yards per touch (4.6). He scored just six total touchdowns in 14 games played after leading the NFL in touchdowns from scrimmage in both 2021 and 2022. Ekeler turns 29 in May, but is still one of the best dual-threat running backs in the game.

Ekeler is going to be an interesting player to watch in free agency. Every running back wants a contract he thinks he is worth, but Ekeler was especially vocal about the plight of the running back last offseason. He’s a leader for the position, so what will he accept? Where will he go? 

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Landing spots: Eagles, Raiders, Broncos

Spotrac’s market value: 3 years, $22,367,367 ($7.4M AAV, No. 10 highest-paid RB)

Pollard crossed 1,300 scrimmage yards for the second straight season, rushing for 1,005 yards and six touchdowns while adding 311 receiving yards on 55 receptions. He ranked No. 12 in rushing yards and No. 17 in scrimmage yards. However, Pollard registered 4.3 yards per touch last season, which ranked No. 27 among the 34 players that recorded 200-plus touches. In 2022, he led the NFL with 5.9 yards per touch.

Pollard turns 27 in April. Cowboys star Micah Parsons wants Dallas to keep Pollard, calling him an every-down back. We’ll see what Jerry Jones does. 

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Landing spots: Cowboys, Panthers, Raiders

Spotrac’s market value: 2 years, $13,058,380 ($6.5M AAV, No. 8 highest-paid RB)

Barkley ranked No. 7 last season in rushing yards per game (68.7) while recording 1,242 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. In 2022, Barkley made the Pro Bowl after rushing for a career-high 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Giants offense was plagued by quarterback and offensive line issues, so Barkley had just one game where he crossed 100 rushing yards. He just turned 27 years old, and it feels like he could be playing football elsewhere in 2024.

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Landing spots: Ravens, Texans, Giants

Spotrac’s market value: 3 years, $29,928,690 ($9.9M AAV, No. 7 highest-paid RB)

A 30-year-old Henry enters free agency with tread left on the tires. The two-time NFL rushing yards leader and rushing touchdowns leader led the league in rushing attempts (280), ranked second in rushing yards (1,167) and was tied for seventh in rushing touchdowns (12) this past season. In the 17th game of the year, he rushed for a season-high 153 yards and one touchdown in the upset that kept the Jacksonville Jaguars out of the playoffs. 

With Mike Vrabel gone and Brian Callahan replacing him, it feels like Henry will be playing for a different team next year. It would be fun to see how much impact Henry could have for a contender. He could be that missing piece for someone.

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Landing spots: Ravens, Cowboys, Eagles

Spotrac’s market value: 1 year, $10,330,151 ($10.3M AAV, No. 7 highest-paid RB)

After the Raiders declined his fifth-year option two offseasons ago, Jacobs led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2,053 and scored 12 total touchdowns. It didn’t help him secure a long-term extension, however, as the Raiders slapped the franchise tag on him. In 13 games played this past season, Jacobs rushed for 805 yards and six touchdowns while crossing 1,100 scrimmage yards for the fifth straight year. He picked up steam late, averaging 76.3 rushing yards per game and 4.0 yards per carry in his final six games. 

Jacobs wants to get paid, but it’s also worth wondering how much he wants to stay in Vegas and play under Antonio Pierce — who won over the locker room in dominant fashion. 

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Landing spots: Raiders, Texans, Patriots

Spotrac’s market value: 4 years, $42,721,176 ($10.6M AAV, No. 7 highest-paid RB)

Other RB FAs of note (UFA): Antonio Gibson (Commanders), Rashaad Penny (Eagles), Cordarrelle Patterson (Falcons), Ezekiel Elliott (Patriots), Devin Singletary (Texans), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs), D’Onta Foreman (Bears), Kareem Hunt (Browns), Jerick McKinnon (Chiefs)





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