Kamis, 26 Januari 2012

Previewing NFL Free Agency: Running Backs

As we continue our preview of NFL free agency, we look at the running back position. The free agent market for running backs is very good this year with Ray Rice and Matt Forte leading the group. However, Rice and Forte shouldn't be moving anywhere so we will look at the best free agent running backs that will probably be leaving the team that they played for this past season. This free agent class of running backs is still pretty good with guys like Peyton Hillis, Ryan Grant, and Cedric Benson headlining the group.
Cincinnati RB Cedric Benson
Benson was a key part of the Bengals run to make the playoffs as the number six seed as he was able to take pressure off of rookie QB Andy Dalton through his excellent performance. Cedric Benson is 29 years old and probably looking for a bigger contract than the one he received last offseason from the Bengals. Benson is one of the most underrated running backs in the NFL as he ran for over 1,000 yards this season. However, the one problem with Benson is that he has been in lots of trouble with the law over the last few years which is why he may not be able to find a 3 or 4 year deal and may have to settle for a 1 or 2 year deal. Benson most likely possibility this offseason is a return to the Bengals as Cincinnati will want him back after the season he had this past year. However, if the Bengals decide to go after a free agent like Ryan Grant or Peyton Hillis, or draft a running back like Virginia Tech's David Wilson or Miami Hurricanes' Lamar Miller. If Benson leaves Cincy, Benson could go to the Cleveland Browns who also have a void at running back with Peyton Hillis potentially leaving. The Browns could see Benson as someone who could start unless they draft Trent Richardson in the first round or someone like David Wilson in the second round. Tampa Bay could also potentially be a destination for Cedric Benson but the Bucs will probably try to draft a runing back or sign someone that doesn't have the character issues that Benson has. Cedric Benson will be a Bengal next year because he knows he will still start in Cincy and that they are the most willing to sign him.

Cleveland RB Peyton Hillis
Hillis had a breakout season in 2010 with his tough running game and his ability to run over players which made his popularity sky rocket and led him to being on the cover of EA Sports' Madden NFL 12 as chosen by the fans. Hillis had a down last year as he picked up some injuries throughout the season and at age 26, he becomes a free agent that will probably move on from the Browns to a team that is close to or already is a playoff contender. The Tampa Bay Bucaneers are a candidate to sign Hillis as they have a definite need at running back. The Bucs are just like the Browns in that they have some pieces that are needed but the Bucs have Josh Freeman at quarterback and a good defense and this could interest Hillis. However, the Bucs are also looking at drafting someone like Trent Richardson so Hillis may have to wait for an offer till after the NFL Draft. Hillis could also draw some interest from the Arizona Cardinals as he could probably start in the desert. The Cardinals don't have a big time running back but Hillis might be the perfect fit for the Cardinals as he could be a mentor for Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams. Hillis would be a perfect fit with the Cardinals as they have a shot to make the playoffs next year after they won 8 games this past season. I think Hillis will end up in Arizona because of how good the opportunity is for him to get to the playoffs with the Cardinals as the starting running back.

Green Bay RB Ryan Grant
Ryan Grant lost the starting running back job in Green Bay to James Starks in this past season and now a departure from the Packers seems very likely for Grant. Grant now will look for a place where he can play and even get the chance to start as he still has a few more years left in him since he is only 29 years old. Grant will probably look for a one year deal though two or three year deal will probably interest him also. Grant will interest a lot of teams including the Cleveland Browns who will be looking for a replacement for Peyton Hillis. Grant would be a good fit in Cleveland as he will want to prove to other teams that he can still start in the NFL. Ryan Grant could also sign for a team that is close to making a playoff run and wants the experience that he can bring to a team. Grant could reunite with former offensive coordinator and now Miami Dolphins' head coach Joe Philbin in Miami as he could take some of the load off of Reggie Bush. Ryan Grant also knows Joe Philbin's system and he could adjust very quickly to a move to Miami due to being with a head coach that he is used to working with. He could also go to Cincy as the Bengals' front office might be fed up with the character issues of Cedric Benson as Grant has never had any character problems. Grant could have a breakout year as he may be inspired to be huge. The final potential destination for Grant could be to Oakland where former Packers VP Reggie Mckenzie is the general manager. Oakland is looking for a running back since Michael Bush is a free agent and Mckenzie may pursue the former Packer hard as he knows what Grant is still capable of. Grant knows he can also be a starter for the Raiders if he goes to Oakland. I think that Ryan Grant will be the starting running back for the Oakland Raiders.

Other backup running backs like Michael Bush and Ronnie Brown will look around to see if they can find a place to start or get significent playing time as a backup like Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Cleveland, NY Jets, Dallas, and Indianapolis. I think Michael Bush will end up in Cleveland as he is still only 27 years old and could be poise for a breakout season if he goes to Cleveland. I think Ronnie Brown will return to Philadelphia, free agent Tim Hightower will head back to Washington as a backup, and Chester Taylor will end up in Dallas because he is the type of utility running back that the Cowboys need.

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