Fantasy Football 2011: Where Free Agent Running Backs Will Land

Jul 12 4:04am

Running backs in the NFL don’t last long and aren’t as valued as they used to be. Running back committees are the norm now and the every down back is going the way of the Carolina Parakeet. So that means that older running backs are going to have a much harder time making big money on the open market, but they are still going to bring interest and change the fantasy value of those that surround them. So let’s take a looky-loo at where and who:

DeAngelo Williams: All indications are that Williams will follow his coach John Fox to Denver. Fox loves to pound the rock and the duo of Knowshon Moreno and Deangelo Williams would fill that bill. Of course another team could outbid the Broncos, but as it is, they seem to want him the most. If Williams does go to Denver he will take over as the lead back. Really there are few places he will go where he won’t be the lead back. In Denver he will have Moreno taking some looks away, but Fox likes to run the ball early and often. Williams will have plenty of fantasy value if he ends up in Denver.

Ronnie Brown: Mr. Brown had the ability to be great, but sadly injuries kept him from it. He has lost a step, but still could have some usefulness in the right situation. I doubt a team that is rebuilding will have any interest in him. He also wants to be in a warm weather city, so yeah, he’s limiting his possibilities. We know he isn’t staying in Miami.  If Tampa Bay thinks they have a shot this season I could see them going after him, but it really depends on where some of the other RBs fall.

Joseph Addai: It looks like many free agents will be re-signed by their teams to help keep some stability after all of the lockout madness. A shortened offseason will make teams more apt to bring veterans back. Addai may be one of those players. The Colts could look to bring in a veteran like Ronnie Brown or Reggie Bush, but they will need to learn the offense quickly whereas Addai already knows it. I see Addai staying, but he isn’t much of a fantasy option. Rookie Delone Carter will have a good shot at getting goal line work and Donald Brown, if he can stay healthy, will be splitting carries with Addai. My horse in this race will be Carter.

Willis McGahee: The Ravens will owe him $6 million next season and that’s just too much for a back up. They will most likely release him and hope to sign him for less. McGahee doesn’t want that of course and will try his wares on the open market. He won’t be the lead back anywhere, but he could end up somewhere that could get him more carries. Where could that be? Good question, writer of this post. He is more than a 3rd down back and even though he’ll be 30, is still relatively healthy. I could see the Seahawks, Redskins, Broncos, all giving him a look, but won’t break the bank for him. There is a real chance he’ll end up back with the Ravens.

Darren Sproles: Like the guy that follows in this post, Sproles is a natural third down pass catching back and return man. The front runner in the Sproles race seems to be Miami right now. They are almost assured of letting Brown and Williams go and they need someone alongside rookie Daniel Thomas. Sproles is a good fit.

Reggie Bush: He is probably going to be released from New Orleans and will  get plenty of interest from teams looking for an explosive third down back. The Colts and Rams have been in that speculation, but there is no front runner. With lesser named, but similarly gifted Sproles on the market, it will depress Bush’s value.

Jason Snelling: Most speculation points to Snelling sticking with the Falcons. Michael Turner is still the lead back, but he has a lot of carries under his belt and was injured not long ago. They drafted Jacquizz Rodgers, but probably don’t want him as the only backup to Turner. They might not get in a bidding war, but they will pay him.

Kevin Smith: There is speculation that Smith could go to the Browns for Hardesty insurance. They saw Peyton Hillis slow down toward the end of last season and didn’t have much to offset his workload. As long as Hardesty is healthy they are good, but his injury history is probably scaring them enough to go after a cheap option like Smith.

Ricky Williams: Sticky Ricky might have a little fire left in the old roach, but he won’t command much on the market. He’ll get a chance to be a change of pace guy somewhere, but don’t look for him to make much of a difference anywhere.

Ahmad Bradshaw: The Giants have made it known that their top priority is to resign Bradshaw and it looks like it will happen. End of story.

Cedric Benson: Benson will most likely stay with the Bengals. They need to upgrade at running back, but they have enough troubles elsewhere.

Michael Bush: It looks likely that Bush will be a restricted free agent and since he was tendered at the highest level it makes it highly unlikely that he will move on.

Besides, Chet has written for the N.Y. Times: Fifth Down Blog, and his own sites Razzball and Third Coast Sports. He is extremely/obsessively active on Twitter and will answer your questions as best he can if you throw them @ChetRazzball.

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