My NFL Free Agent running back list hit some turmoil as I was putting it together, causing the addition of an extra spot, a No. 7, and a new guy atop the list pretty much as I was finishing it up.

It’s only to expected as the legal tampering period opens up and teams and players decide they might want to consciously uncouple.

As is usually the case with the running back position, it’s consistently undervalued and, as such, there’s some solid quality available as we begin the serious (and cutthroat) part of the offseason.

Because of that undervalue, there is plenty of quality available outside of the Top 7 that I’ve listed here. All young with plenty of miles still on their tires.

Guys like Chase Edmunds, Rashaad Penny, D’Onta Foreman, Boston Scott, Ronald Jones II, D’Ernest Johnson, Jeff Wilson, Jr., Devin Singletary, Damien Harris, Myles Gaskin and James Robinson are all 27 or younger and can step in and start for pretty much any team if called upon. A couple of those guys have played in Super Bowls.

If you’re looking at a savvy veteran at a discount, Mark Ingram, Rex Burkhead, Giovani Bernard, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Latavius Murray, Kenyan Drake and Malcolm Brown make a ton of sense for any team. There’s a reason these guys continue to stay employed, even as the years pile up.

There’s a couple of names not listed here, Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon, who could end up a cap cut. But there’s no indication of that happening right now, so I’m leaving him off. If he were available, he’d be No. 2. The Tennessee Titans are also apparently “listening to, but not shopping for” trade offers for Derrick Henry and, if any of those turn out to catch their ear, he would definitely be No. 1 on this list. If anything, it’s lit a fire under me to get this published so I don’t have to alter it any further. Life comes at you fast.


Age: 27

2022: 5-10, 200 pounds, 204 carries, 915 yads, 13 touchdowns, 107 receptions, 722 receiving yards, five receiving touchdowns

After contract talks stalled with the Los Angeles Chargers, Austin Ekeler has asked for a trade, making every fantasy football player in America gasp, clutch their chest and fall unconscious into their fainting couches. The Chargers have proven they don’t play contract chicken with RBs and have let guys walk before, specifically Melvin Gordon. That move benefited Ekeler, but now he’s in that same situation. Ekeler is a dynamic player with plenty left in the tank and a guy that can put up big numbers in pretty much any system. Who couldn’t use an extra 17 or so touchdowns on offense every year?

Where he should end up: Carolina Panthers

Hey, you know what really helps a rookie quarterback develop? A good running game and a pass catching back to dump the ball to when the pocket gets cramped. Carolina traded a ton of draft capital, and their best offensive weapon in DJ Moore, to the Chicago Bears to land the top pick in the draft. Whether Carolina is targeting CJ Stroud or Bryce Young (and it better be one of those two because, man, any other QB there would be downright moronic), either of those guys would benefit greatly from Ekeler taking plenty of the pressure off.


Age: 25

2022: 5-11, 211 pounds, 259 carries, 1,269 yards, 11 touchdowns, 20 receptions, 78 receiving yards

Sanders is a multi purpose running back that thrived in the system Nick Sirianni created with the Philadelphia Eagles, but I would still argue that he was underused. He’d never rushed for less than 754 yards a season, but last year broke through with the rest of the team, posting career highs as a runner while being rarely used as a pass catcher. Sanders, under Doug Pederson, did both and recorded 50 receptions for 509 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. To me, that feels like there was some meat left on the bone for the Pro Bowl/Super Bowl back in 2022.

Where he should end up: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Why not replace Leonard Fournette with a younger version of Leonard Fournette? Sanders, though underused in the passing game in Philly, can deliver there and is a punishing runner and touchdown machine. For a team breaking in a young quarterback like Kyle Trask (or maybe drafting one), they can’t afford to take a significant step backward in the running back department. Plus, Sanders would be worth having just to steal some of Sirianni’s playbook (especially the short yardage stuff if they draft Anthony Richardson).


Age: 27

2022: 6-0, 224 pounds, 262 carries, 1,066 yards, 17 touchdowns, 12 receptions, 73 receiving yards

To say Jamaal Williams broke out in 2022 would be an understatement. He collected his first 1,000 yard season in spite of sharing touches with D’Andre Swift and led the league in rushing touchdowns. He wasn’t very active in the passing game, but that’s more due to the play calling and substitution packages. Williams proved, in his time with the Green Bay Packers, that he’s more than capable of working as a receiver out of the backfield. Because of his lighter career workload (certainly it increased last season), he doesn’t have a ton of wear and tear on him as a six year veteran.

Where he should end up: Detroit Lions

As I mentioned above, there has to be a price point on every running back simply because of the glut of quality runners coming out of college every season. That will (and should) always depress the market, but coming in as a proven commodity, and one that can find the end zone like Williams did last season should definitely up his value. For the Lions, keeping Williams only makes sense. He was a catalyst and very successful piece of their resurgent offense and I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But there has to be a top out on what they’re willing to pay and that might lead Williams to end up on a team like the Chicago Bears or Houston Texans with tons of cap and a severe need to put points on the board. 


Age: 28

2022: 6-0, 229 pounds, 189 carries, 668 yards, three touchdowns, 73 receptions, 523 receiving yards, three receiving touchdowns

If you’re keeping track, Fournette is the only former first round pick to make this list for good reason. Those guys don’t normally hit the market unless they’re busts. Fournette has been anything but that. He was a star for the Jacksonville Jaguars who decided they didn’t want to pay him for being that star. Cut loose, as so many of his teammates in that 2019 era were, he landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and did alright, winning a Super Bowl with Tom Brady. His next two seasons were solid in that offense, keeping the tread on his tires safe while he blossomed as a receiver, catching 69 passes in 2021 and 73 last season. Because of the way he was used, he’s been able to stay healthy and should have a nice journeyman career over the next half decade to wrap up a solid, but probably not spectacular, career.

Where he should end up: Philadelphia Eagles

If the Eagles are going to lose Miles Sanders to the Buccaneers, they might as well work it like a trade. Fournette and Sanders bring so many of the same skills to the forefront, there’s no reason not to bring in the Super Bowl winning back to keep from going backwards at the position. Plus, Sirianni could discover some real value in adding a pass catcher to his running game, something he neglected to do with Sanders, who had that skillset. Boston Scott is a nice No. 2, but he’s also a free agent and you’re not getting Sanders’ production out of him even if you bring him back. The NFC is going to be much tougher with a healthy Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers next season. The Eagles have to at least come into 2023 as strong as they left 2022.


Age: 27

2022: 5-11, 216 pounds, 123 carries, 468 yards, three touchdowns, 35 receptions, 210 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown

Kareem Hunt enters free agency for the first time on his own terms. He was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs dure to an off the field incident that still lingers, albeit just slightly, over any potential signing of the former Pro Bowl runner. He’s spent the last four seasons in a split backfield with the Cleveland Browns, working really as a second option to bell cow back Nick Chubb. Hunt’s value increases as a three down back who can work as a receiver in the passing game. He caught 35 passes in Cleveland last season, which is a down year for him. He caught 63 balls as a rookie with the Chiefs and 51 his second year with the Browns.

Where he should end up: Houston Texans

The Texans must find a way to add some potency to their offense. They have a solid receiving group now (if they keep Brandin Cooks) after signing Robert Woods, but their new quarterback, whoever it is, needs a dump off option and a guy who can contribute in pass protection. 


Age: 30

2022: 5-10, 205 pounds, 181 carries, 891 yards, three touchdowns, 31 receptions, 202 receiving yards, two receiving touchdowns

Raheem Mostert had his best season in 2022 splitting carries in the Miami Dolphins backfield with multiple backs. He set a career high in carries, yardage and receptions, which wasn’t previously part of his game. The knock against him is his age, this will be his eighth year in the league and he’ll likely play out the next few seasons on one year deals, but he’s still got dynamic speed and his production hasn’t wavered, as long as he’s been in a Kyle Shanahan system.

Where he should end up: Miami Dolphins

As of this writing (and considering the legal tampering period is opening, that could change in a hurry), the Dolphins have exactly one running back, Salvin Ahmed, under contract for 2023. Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Jr. and Myles Gaskin are all free agents. Miami also has spent pretty much all its serious draft capital on trades (most recently acquiring Jalen Ramsey from the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a third round pick and a tight end), or through punishments for tampering. They might as well bring back their most productive runner if they can get him signed for around the $2.6 million deal they got him for last season.


Age: 27

2022: 5-11, 240 pounds, 95 carries, 394 yards, two touchdowns, 38 receptions, 287 receiving yards, four receiving touchdowns

Samaje Perine has flourished since joining the Cincinnati Bengals, proving he can carry the load when called upon and showing he’s one of the better pass blockers at his position in the game. His receptions this season were a career high, but he was targeted 51 times, which means that Joe Burrow really depended on him as a bail out possibility when the pocket got hot. Cincinnati is simply paying over market right now for their backfield, as I mentioned earlier, and there’s just no way financially Perine makes sense for them to keep.

Where he should end up: Chicago Bears

Everything Perine does well, pass block, run dump off routes, and push hard between the tackles the Bears desperately need. They have all the money in the world witch which to pay, and still shouldn’t come close to breaking the bank to add Perine to the mix.

Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.

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