2013 NFL Free Agents: Predictions for Where Top RBs Will Land

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 23:  Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks for running room while playing the Cincinnati Bengals during a second quarter run at Heinz Field on December 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Although this offseason's class of NFL free agents is no better than average as a whole, running back is one of the few positions where teams will find depth. Front offices hoping to find a veteran rusher should have no problem finding one.

That said, if teams want one with starting experience and a solid track record, they are still going to have to open the checkbook. Even though many offenses have shifted more toward high-powered passing games in recent years, there's still plenty of value in a reliable back.

Let's take a look at some of the top running backs slated to become unrestricted free agents and predict where they will be suiting up next season once the dust settles at the end of the offseason.


Steven Jackson

Jackson has been one of the league's most consistent rushers over the past decade. He's crossed the 1,000-yard barrier in eight straight seasons and has only missed two games over the past four years, despite a steady string of heavy workloads.

He's been a stalwart for the St. Louis Rams during that time, but Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported he's ready to decline his player option for next season. He states the veteran back is hoping to land with a contender.

Knowing that, the perfect fit would be the Atlanta Falcons, who watched Michael Turner's diminishing returns reach a low point last season. Jackson would bring some much-needed power football to an offense with plenty of flash.

Prediction: Falcons


Rashard Mendenhall

After scoring 30 touchdowns over a three-year span for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mendenhall endured a disappointing 2012 season. He was trying to come back from a knee injury and was also dealing with a crowded Pittsburgh backfield, which led to a down year.

Mendenhall should be able to rediscover his old form after an entire offseason to focus on getting back to full strength, instead of worrying about breaking the backfield rotation. Still, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette states he's unlikely to stay put with the Steelers.

It will be interesting to see what type of market develops for him because of the down season. He would be a strong buy-low candidate for a team looking for a short-term fix at the position, such as the Arizona Cardinals. They ranked dead last in yards per carry last season.

Prediction: Cardinals


Reggie Bush

Although Bush is never going to be a running back teams feel comfortable playing in every situation because of his size, he's shown with the Miami Dolphins that he can handle a starter's workload. He still possesses the playmaking skills that made him a college star.

All that said, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that the Dolphins only viewed Bush as a luxury piece and aren't expecting him back for 2013. He also says the USC product will have some options, assuming he does hit the market.

Bush's best move would be staying in the same division he's spent the past two years. The New York Jets' running game is in dire need of somebody with game-breaking ability. After a couple of seasons of a failed ground-and-pound mentality, it's time for something new.

Prediction: Jets