Uncertainty always looms as free agency approaches and that will be magnified more than ever in 2021 thanks to salary-cap constraints many teams face this offseason. Several position groups can see familiar faces change locations and there is great intrigue surrounding the running back position.
The class of free-agent running backs is headlined by Aaron Jones. After flashing superstar talent over the past four seasons for the Green Bay Packers, Jones is poised to cash in on the open market. As laid out by Jim Mora Jr., a team such as the Atlanta Falcons would be a brilliant fit for the star runner. The Falcons are set to implement new head coach Arthur Smith’s scheme that helped catapult Titans running back Derrick Henry to stardom and very well could be on the hunt for a centerpiece of their running game. The Miami Dolphins have long been rumored as a potential destination for Jones. He would certainly help take some of the burden off second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Another running back who seems unlikely to return to his current team is Chris Carson of the Seattle Seahawks. He has struggled at points in his career with nagging injuries and ball-security issues as Mora made note of, but he is an extremely capable runner who could bolster a team's rushing output. Although he rushed for only 681 yards in 2020, he recorded over 1,100 yards in consecutive seasons the two years prior.
The New York Jets are an extremely intriguing destination Mora proposed, as they will surely look to take the pressure off their young quarterback whether it is Sam Darnold or a newly drafted rookie. New head coach Robert Saleh brought Kyle Shanahan disciple Mike LaFleur with him from San Francisco to be the Jets' new offensive coordinator and they don't currently have a back on the roster who has shown the ability to be a three-down runner. We have not yet seen what LaFleur’s offense will look like, but it’s a safe assumption there will be a strong emphasis on the running game just as there is in San Francisco.
Although NFL teams often shy away from offering big-money contracts to aging free-agent running backs, there are always exceptions. Jones and Carson headline a group of runners that will also feature James Conner of the Steelers and Kenyan Drake of the Cardinals. Look for a big shakeup at the position when free agency gets underway on March 17.
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