Ahman Green, UFA, Green Bay Packers
Injuries and protecting the ball have been Green’s Achilles’ heel. In 2003, Green rushed for over 1,800 yards. In 2004, his rushing total fell to under 1,200 yards. In 2005, he played in just five games and totaled 255 yards. He runs behind a suspect offensive line and takes a pounding, as do all of the Packers’ backs. He fumbles more than his team would wish, and yet, a healthy Ahman Green is a pretty good Ahman Green. In 2006, Green bounced back with 1,059 yards rushing, 373 receiving yards, and six total touchdowns. His value is difficult to measure because of his health—teams interested in Green may ease in another young back to split carries. The former Nebraska Cornhusker could be looking for work outside of Green Bay because of injuries, fumbles, and inconsistency. As a free agent running back who will be 30, Green may have to settle for a backup role with a team looking for insurance.
Michael Turner, RFA, San Diego Chargers
Turner takes a beating and keeps going. Turner isn’t well known to the general public, but the kid has talent. He gets a handful of carries behind Ladainian Tomlinson and has maximized those carries, averaging six yards per carry in his short career. He carried just 80 times this season, but it was a career high for Turner, and he was still able to crack the 500 yard-mark with a pair of touchdowns. With his strong running style and production in San Diego this season, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see Turner sign elsewhere—but the Chargers may look to keep their dangerous rushing combo together.
Dominic Rhodes, UFA, Indianapolis Colts
Rhodes’ performance throughout the season was not as impressive as some speculated it might be, after he was given a chance to earn more carries with the departure of Edgerrin James. He carried 187 times for just 641 yards on the season, and rookie Joseph Addai was the more impressive runner on the roster. Rhodes was able to find the endzone five times by being a power back type for the team, but did not catch the attention of many. Super Bowl XLI may have changed that. With 113 yards on the ground—his largest rushing total since 2001—and a score, Rhodes was arguably the best player on the field in the biggest game of the season. Indianapolis may look to keep him, but he may be the target of a few teams looking to take a chance on a back that stepped it up when he needed to most.
Chris Brown, UFA, Tennessee Titans
Brown might wind up back in Tennessee when all is said and done, but there could be interest from teams looking for a decent backup or desperate for a starter with some experience under his belt. A team might like to use Brown in a running back by committee scenario, but his 41 carries for less than four yards per carry in 2006 hurt his stock. His upright running style might make him an appealing change of pace back, but it is also a weakness at times. He did rush for over 1,000 yards in just 11 games during the 2004 season, but Brown’s health is a concern. In his three seasons, he’s never played in all 16 games.
Correll Buckhalter, UFA, Philadelphia Eagles
With Brian Westbrook starting and Ryan Moats waiting in the wings, Buckhalter may look for an expanded role outside of Philadelphia. The third year running back was called upon for just 83 carries this season, his lowest total of his career. He averaged more than four yards per carry and some extra muscle for the Eagles’ run game. His potential combined with his adequate ability as a receiving back means that he could become a strong contributor for a team willing to use him more often.
Jamal Lewis, UFA, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens cut the former first round pick on the final day of February, but will make an attempt to re-sign the running back to a lesser contract. Even though Lewis had a poor 2005 outing, his 2006 effort was improved as he rushed for over 1,100 yards and found the end zone on five occasions. There may be a team or two willing to gamble on one of the few players in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season. He will probably be overpaid, if he doesn’t re-sign with Baltimore. Still only 27, there may be some strong production left for Lewis.
Ron Dayne, UFA, Houston Texans
The former Heisman winner will be hard-pressed to find a team that can best utilize what Dayne brings to the field. He was able to average more than five yards per rush two seasons ago for Denver, and over four yards per rush this past season with Houston, but he isn’t the type of back that you can count on to carry the load all of the time. He has worked best in a committee approach to the backfield, making Dayne’s options somewhat limited based on where he can be effective. He may have to settle for being a spot player on a team with a clear number one.
T.J. Duckett, UFA, Washington Redskins
The running back has a visit scheduled with the Lions, and his age of just 26 means that teams will give him a look. He could fit well behind a quick and shifty back like he did behind Warrick Dunn in Atlanta, but he may not find the playing time he’s looking for at the moment. His talent isn’t that of a top back, and he shouldn’t expect to command much on the market. He is the two of a one-two punch at best.
Other Free Agent Running Backs
Najeh Davenport, UFA, Pittsburgh Steelers
Nick Goings, UFA, Carolina Panthers
Maurice Hicks, RFA, San Francisco 49ers
Patrick Pass, UFA, New England Patriots
B.J. Sams, RFA, Baltimore Ravens
Marcel Shipp, UFA, Arizona Cardinals
Antowain Smith, UFA, Houston Texans
Continue with top free agent WRs