Free Agency Could Be Rich with RBs

Posted Feb 23, 2018

Will Jets Go with Powell-Forté-McGuire Again or Be Tempted to Add a Veteran Back from Outside?

Jets Free Agents
XRFA (2): FB Lawrence Thomas, RB Jahad Thomas

The Market
Notable UFA Running Backs: Le'Veon Bell (PIT), Carlos Hyde (SF), Dion Lewis (NE), Rex Burkhead (NE), LeGarrette Blount (PHI), Jerick McKinnon (MIN), Isaiah Crowell (CLE), Brandon Bolden (NE), Doug Martin (TB), Darren Sproles (PHI), Orleans Darkwa (NYG), Shane Vereen (NYG), Frank Gore (IND), Jamaal Charles (DEN)


The Jets' running game is still very solid at its core. Bilal Powell turns 29 after his eighth pro season begins but he remains highly productive and hasn't suffered as much wear and tear as others at those levels of experience. He's coming off one of the best seasons of his Jets career — career highs of 772 rush yards and 5 rush TDs and a franchise-best four 40-yards-plus runs.

Elijah McGuire established himself a Jets contributor to watch, especially on his 69-yard touchdown burst in Game 4 vs. Jacksonville. With his first full offseason as a pro and a better understanding of avoiding tackles for loss/no gain, he could blossom as an NFL sophomore.

Matt Forté ended his second season as a Jet on injured reserve and his future with the Green & White is unsure. But he remains a crafty veteran capable of making plays — there was his nifty 21-yard reception to convert third-and-19 at Miami and his three touchdown runs in the two big home wins over playoff teams, Buffalo and Kansas City, all in a six-game midseason span. He has said he wants to keep playing and pursue some lofty plateaus (he needs 204 yards to reach 10,000 rushing yards and 532 yards for 15,000 scrimmage yards).

At fullback, Lawrence Thomas, an exclusive-rights free agent-to-be, took well to his fulltime conversion from D-line to offense.

If GM Mike Maccagnan wants to dip into the free agency market to fortify his offensive backfield, this appears to be a deep RB class for getting that done. At the top of the heap is Le'Veon Bell. At 25 he's in the argument for best runner in pro football and the Steelers won't let him depart without a fight. Other eye-catchers are Carlos Hyde of the 49ers, the Vikings' Jerick McKinnon, and Isaiah Crowell, a well-kept secret in Cleveland.

Then in the next tier are a number of backs with New England ties. The Patriots' two top backs in '17, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead could become UFAs as well as Brandon Bolden. LeGarrette Blount has pounded the rock for the last two Super Bowl winners, the Eagles and Patriots. Shane Vereen, late of the Giants, burned the Jets while with the Pats in '11.

Several "geezers" could also hit free agency. Darren Sproles, who tore his ACL and missed most of the Eagles' historic season, appears to be angling for a return at 35 years of age as some team's multipurpose back and dangerous punt returner. Frank Gore, who will also be 35, has remained durable and productive with the 49ers and the last three years with the Colts. Jamaal Charles (31), the longtime Chief, was limited as a Bronco.