2013 NFL Free Agency: Top 5 Running Backs on the Market and Best Fits
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Aside from the playoffs, NFL free agency is always an intriguing area once January rolls around.
It's now the offseason for the majority of pro football, and it's never too early to check out who could potentially be on the move before 2013 kicks off.
Ahead, we take a look at the top running backs entering the new NFL year.
Reggie Bush of the Miami Dolphins is among the select few, because his dynamic play has developed nicely of late. Interestingly enough, his best rushing seasons have come since joining the Dolphins in 2011.
Also, given that the 2013 NFL draft is weaker at running back than 2012, free agent ball-carriers will be more appealing throughout the offseason—especially these five.
5. Shonn Greene
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Best Fit: Arizona Cardinals
Shonn Greene has been the only constant of the New York Jets' offense.
Rushing for over 1,000 yards the past two seasons, Greene hasn't been helped by anyone else on Rex Ryan's crew. Presenting solid size, explosive acceleration, and a downhill running attitude, Greene would be a great get for the Arizona Cardinals.
The Card's don't field a consistently reliable running back and need an established player to possess some level of balance. Greene's punishing style also suits well for the NFC West, because it's a division controlled by defense and by winning the line of scrimmage.
Greene only helps Arizona improve on the ground to set up the pass, which will also take pressure away from Larry Fitzgerald.
4. Ahmad Bradshaw
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Best Fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
As [Ahmad] Bradshaw cleaned out his locker on Monday, he appeared to have some uncertainty as to whether or not he would be back.
"You just never know who won’t be back next year, including me," Bradshaw said.
He has two more years left on his contract, and is due $3.75 million in 2013. He said he has not been approached to renegotiate.
That said, Bradshaw is certainly an attractive acquisition for a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Provided that Maurice Jones-Drew gets back on track, Bradshaw's capabilities will complement accordingly. He's a dual-threat who can consistently pass protect and get yards after contact.
Plenty of teams utilize a two-back set in pro football, including the Giants since Bradshaw's rookie campaign.
He makes Jacksonville's offense more versatile and allows the playbook to expand. Considering that the Jags averaged only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt, Bradshaw's 4.6 in 2012 would make a strong impact next fall.
3. Rashard Mendenhall
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Best Fit: Green Bay Packers
Rashard Mendenhall is of a similar size to that of Cedric Benson.
The difference, however, comes from Mendenhall turning only 26 years old prior to the 2013 season. The Green Bay Packers need a younger No. 1 back with great potential, because the ground game is not consistently reliable enough.
Although the Packers have seen their rushing offense gain confidence and improve, Mendenhall would take Green Bay to another level. Utilizing his power and agility to work between the tackles, Mendenhall brings impressive acceleration and top speed once he's through the running lane.
For as efficient as Aaron Rodgers is with a minimal running game and unreliable pass protection, he'll reach an unforeseen level when backed by a stronger ball-carrier. Mendenhall's motive to produce would also increase, as Green Bay remains a solid NFC title contender.
2. Steven Jackson
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Best Fit: Detroit Lions
Back in early October, according to Pete Prisco of CBS Sports:
Even though [Steven] Jackson didn't reach the required incentives to void out the final two years of his contract, the team has decided to allow him to void the final year (2013) anyway, which means Jackson will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2012 season.
To a certain extent, this decision by the St. Louis Rams was not surprising. Jackson will be 30 years old before the 2013 season kicks off, and he has been utilized quite often. Factor in the slight decline of his still really impressive production this season, and the Rams appear to be moving on.
Because of his dependable consistency, though, Jackson deserves another opportunity to contribute. After all, he still averaged 4.1 yards per rush in 2012 and is at 4.2 for his career.
The Detroit Lions are a nice fit, since they need a reliable No. 1 back and Jackson won't be totally overused. Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell make for a solid tandem, but adding Jackson to the mix ensures ball control and a competitive advantage inside the red zone.
With Calvin Johnson out wide, no defense will stack the box, and the NFC North is still vulnerable against the run—everyone allowed at least four yards per attempt during the regular season.
1. Reggie Bush
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Best Fit: Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins must retain Reggie Bush, period.
For one, Bush is the team's best back, and Miami needs to address other areas this offseason—namely pass defense.
In 2011, Bush accounted for 1,382 total yards and scored seven times. With rookie Ryan Tannehill at the helm in 2012, Bush compiled 1,278 total yards and reached the zone eight times.
Viewing his entire career, 2011 and '12 are also Bush's two most consistent back-to-back seasons.
His dynamics are a competitive advantage for the Dolphins in the AFC East, and being the main back, Bush's best chances to make an impact are in Miami. Not to mention the guy has averaged 4.6 yards-per-rush in two seasons for the Dolphins.
Having lost so many close games this past year, Miami is on the brink of becoming a postseason contender. And Bush staying put is one aspect where each party can significantly help the other.
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