Running backs are high-risk, high-reward players, and it's just as smart to lock a good one up with a long-term, big-money deal as it is foolish.
When it comes to running backs, past performance doesn't indicate future results, and there's always a very real chance that one season's leading rusher is next season's disappointment.
That's why a number of talented running backs find themselves team-less free agents at the end of the year.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice had the most yards from scrimmage of any player this year. He's the heart of the Ravens' offense and is a free agent in name only; he should get a long-term deal in the offseason.
This also applies to Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who should either get a new deal or be franchised in the offseason.
The same cannot be said for the Chicago Bears' Matt Forte. While it doesn't seem likely the team will release their star offensive player, the fact that they haven't offered him a new deal raises a few questions. Depending on what direction the team's new GM wants the team to take will determine Forte's ultimate fate.
The Cleveland Browns' Peyton Hillis and Green Bay Packers' Ryan Grant will both be playing for new teams next season, but for different reasons.
Hillis' poor performance in 2011 was a result of both his numerous injuries and poor attitude. The Browns will likely part ways with the troublesome back.
Grant, on the other hand, is the odd man out. He's 29 years old and has lost his starting job to James Starks. He still has a few seasons left in him, but he won't command a big payday from whichever team chooses to sign him.
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