New York Jets Free Agency Primer (Running Backs)

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With approximately $30-40 million in cap space, the New York Jets are pegged to be players when the new league year begins on March 3rd, 2013. Today, we look at free agent running backs. Check out our look at quarterbacks from last week here.

There’s a good chance the New York Jets will enter the 2014 season with Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, and Mike Goodson (Run BMC) as their running backs. However, with Goodson’s future a bit uncertain due to his legal trouble as well as Bilal entering the final year of his contract, it’s possible that the New York Jets look to replace one or both of them now, with either a release of Mike Goodson or trade of Bilal Powell. Here’s who the Jets could target in free agency.

1. Darren McFadden, Raiders

Darren McFadden

2013 Stats: 7 starts, 114 carries, 379 yards. 5 TDs, 3.3 yards per carry, 17 receptions, 108 yards, 6.4 yards per reception

Analysis: McFadden once again battled injuries in 2013, and has now played in 67 out of a possible 96 games in his career. When he’s been healthy, which he was for the most part in 2010 (223 rushes, 1157 yards, a 5.2 yards per carry average), McFadden has been an explosive feature back in this league. He has speed, can catch the ball, and has displayed a willingness to run between the tackles. He has earned his injury prone label, though, so it’s a concern. If healthy, McFadden could be a welcome addition to the Jets backfield depending on the cost.

Likelihood: He will become an unrestricted free agent after earning $7M this season. There is a chance that a team like the Giants or the Dolphins offer him an opportunity to start, whereas he’d be backing up Chris Ivory with the Jets. We’ll put this as a 3.

2. Maurice Jones Drew, Jaguars

MJD

2013 Stats: 234 carries, 803 yards. 5 TDs, 3.4 yards per carry, 43 receptions, 314 yards, 7.3 yards per reception, 1117 total yards from scrimmage

Analysis: MJD bounced back from an injury plagued 2012 season to play 15 out of 16 games in 2013. He had arguably his worst season as a professional, with career lows in yards and yards per carry (not counting his injury shortened year). His best game came against Houston, where he rushed for 103 yards and a 7.3 yards per carry average. He’ll be 29 when the season starts, and his days of being a feature back seem to be behind him.

Likelihood: Drew has expressed a desire to return to Jacksonville this offseason, but he’s about to hit free agency for the first time in his career. Drew made $7.6M this past season, and he won’t make nearly as much on the open market. However, if he’s looking for an opportunity to backup an established running back teams like Houston could reach out to the former All-Pro. He’d be the clear backup to Chris Ivory here, but would be a good weapon as a pass catcher as he’s notched at least 40 catches in 6 out of the past 8 seasons. We’ll put this likelihood at a 2.

3. Donald Brown, Colts

Donald Brown

2013 Stats: 102 carries, 537 yards, 6 TDs, 5.3 yards per carry, 27 receptions, 214 yards, 7.9 yards per reception, 2 TDs, 8 total TDs

Analysis: The former first round pick, despite the arrival of Trent Richardson midseason, put together arguably his best season in 2013. Over 700 total yards and 8 total touchdowns in spot duty is nothing to scoff at as Brown supplanted Trent Richardson towards the end of the year. Brown, also, displayed good hands as he notched 27 receptions. Brown, also, only fumbled twice in 634 career touches touches. Brown is, also, only 26 and has 551 lifetime carries. There are injury concerns as Brown has played 16 games just twice out of his first 5 seasons.

Likelihood: Brown will become an unrestricted free agent and is one of the more intriguing options out there should the Jets want to upgrade the running back position. Brown would be a good compliment to Chris Ivory, due to his speed and sure hands, as well as his ability to blitz pick up. With Trent Richardson faltering like he has in Indianapolis, it’s possible the Colts do not let Brown walk. If they do, I’d put the likelihood of Brown replacing Goodson or Powell at a 6. It may be worth placing a free bet at various bookmakers websites on how you think Brown will do next season.

4. Ben Tate, Texans

Ben Tate

2013 Stats: 181 rushes, 771 yards, 4 TDs, 4.3 yards per carry, 34 receptions, 140 yards 4 total touchdowns, 5 fumbles

Analysis: Ben Tate took over for Arian Foster when Arian Foster went down and posted his best season as a pro. Tate’s 4 TDs tied a career high, and and his 34 receptions were a career high. Tate did deal with injuries too, and he’s yet to play in a full 16 games. He, also, has a bit of a fumbling problem as he’s fumbled 10 times in his career.

Likelihood: Tate will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and may be looking to step out of the shadow of Arian Foster. Because of this, i’d put the likelihood of Tate joining the Jets at a 1. However, Tate has back up and starting experience, and would be a good change of pace back for Ivory.

5. LeGarrette Blount, Patriots

2013 Stats: 153 carries, 772 yards, 7 TDs, 5.0 yards per carry, 2 receptions, 38 yards, 3 fumbles

Analysis: Blount took over for Steven Ridley towards the end of the season, and he rewarded the Patriots with his two best games of the season against Buffalo and Indianapolis. Blount averaged 5.0 yards per carry and found the endzone 7 times. Blount did fumble 3 times, and this brought his total up to 12 career fumbles.

Likelihood: The Patriots invested high draft choices in Ridley and Shane Vereen, so it’s possible that Blount is the odd man out in New England. He’s very similar to Chris Ivory, in terms of power, but Ivory is actually the faster of the two running backs. He struggles with catching the ball, as he’s only registered double digit in catches once in his career. Because of this, he’s not the best fit as Ivory’s backup and in Marty’s offense, so i’d put this likelihood at a 1.

27 thoughts on “New York Jets Free Agency Primer (Running Backs)

  1. The 3 headed monster they have, at Tailback, has a ’14 cap charge of roughly $4.5mm (unless they give Powell a raise).

    I don’t see paying up to get one of these guys, when the real help is needed at WR/TE.
    Sure, I guess you could argue that both MJD and McFadden have had big seasons, but one has ‘mileage’ concerns and the other can’t stay healthy. The other 3 have shown flashes, but nothing worth paying up for. With the multitude of picks they have, they should look to draft/develop someone, rather than pay up for any RB, in FA.

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  3. RB isn’t a top priority but it could use a upgrade outside of Ivory. Powell is a solid back but doesn’t do anything special and struggles with blitz pick ups. I think if the jets go after MJD he can be used similar to how LT was used in 2010-2011.

  4. I don’t see us paying any money for a free agent RB. If we can get a read on Goodson’s legal issues, that would help the decision making. In Goodson’s very limited appearances, he showed he could have made a difference this year if available. We may need to pick up a low cost FA for depth, but I’d prefer we draft a RB, rather than pay money we need to invest in other areas.

  5. I’m sorry, could you explain again WHY the team would trade Powell? He’s still on his rookie contract, has done well starting and as 2nd option, can catch the ball…what am I missing? With all the needs this team has, RB has to be about the last position the Jets need to be concerned with. I understand if Goodson is indicted on charges, that changes HIS position. But you are listing mostly feature backs that would take carries from a RB in his prime that runs like Marshawn – Chris Ivory. Not happening. Ivory is in his prime running like a ball of knives and is just what this team needs to take pressure off of Geno.

  6. Veteran free agent running backs are a waste of money. The best ones are those who were buried on their depth charts and did not see a lot of use. Last year, Idzik was criticized for giving contracts to running backs, a position at which rookies are decent coming out of college. That criticism was wrong, as Ivory and Powell outperformed a lot of those rookies, but that is where we need to look for some possible additions. I would not be averse to finding a compliment or a replacement to Powell, Goodson, or Ivory in the middle rounds of the draft. Guys like Bishop Sankey, Tre Mason, De’Anthony Thomas, and Geno’s old teammate Charles Sims will be in the draft.

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  8. Weaknesses in 2013
    -Picking up blitz + pocket blocking
    -pass catching
    -running outside tackles
    Probabilities for 2014:
    -Chris Ivory gets injured and misses games
    -Goodson ends up serving time

    Powell has improved every year and maybe this will continue. He has proven his ability to play in Ivory’s position but that still leaves a need for a 3d down, scat back.

  9. Thanks for the replies. I envision the Jets’s running back depth chart to resemble this year’s too but w/ Bilal entering the final year of his deal, Goodson getting indicted today, and Ivory’s injury history, I won’t dismiss the possibility that the Jets could look to add a running back through free agency. It’s possible that the addition comes through the draft, like you guys mentioned, but it’s possible Idzik targets a free agent RB and then opts to fill more pressing concerns through the draft.

  10. Kash, Charles Sims never played with Geno. Sims transferred to WVU for his 5th year after Geno was already on the Jets…

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  16. If the Jets add a RB, it will be via the draft and it will probably be some kind of “home run” threat!

  17. I some times wonder if these so called experts are really watching our games, running back is one of the STRONGEST positions we have and even though everyone keeps talking about how much cap room we have we also have so many other holes to fill how about going hard after Jimmy Graham from the saints, or Brent Grimes or Chris Harris for the D back field, what about Brian Orakpo we need a LT how about Branden Albert we need so much BUT running back is not one of them

  18. I know the feeling Ike; it’s mind boggling how many self proclaimed experts don’t watch games. Good thing I am not that, huh? The Jets have cap space and could use it on any position they feel is a need. I think part of the reason RB is such a strength is because the rest of the team is weak. That’s the reality that the Jets find themselves in right now. Idzik already said that they’d look to improve every position and it’s possible that either Goodson or Powell aren’t on the roster next season. If that happens, the Jets will need to add a RB and either of these guys may be a consideration for that.

  19. @Ike

    You sound awfully confident that none of those guys will be franchise tagged. I wouldn’t have high hopes for them hitting free agency, especially Jimmy Graham.

  20. We are breaking down every single position in free agency, not sure why people don’t understand that. Do you think a 8-8 team who didn’t have a RB with over 850 yards rushing shouldn’t even examine the market around them? It is called doing your due diligence.

    There is 0.0% chance Jimmy Graham is coming here, so I wouldn’t waste your time thinking about him.

  21. Branden Albert? A-he’s not better than ‘Brick. B-if the NYJ cut him, to bring in Albert, you’d be looking at around 20mm in cap space, minimum. ‘Brick would cost 13+mm to cut, and Albert would certainly come in around a 7-8mm capm number.

    Chris Harris? A-He’s a restricted FA. B-He’s simply solid. C-He just blew out his knee, and isn’t likely to be 100% at any time next year.

    It’s a long off season, what’s the harm in looking at every position group? It’s no lock Goodson is back here. Have some fun!!!!

  22. You can improve on Powell and you might need a replacement for Goodson. Why not try to be awesome at running back, if all it takes is the addition of one player.

    That said, I just do not see free agent running backs as what we need. You can look at all options, but you will find much better value in the draft. One, a new running back would compete for touches with Ivory and Powell, which is not a good situation for a veteran running back. Two, it is a position at which wear has a big effect on performance. Three, compared with a rookie, you are going to overpay a free agent for his performance, especially considering the first two points.

  23. I expect us to take a scat back later in the draft and possibly look into some UDFA. One player I would be very interested in is Dri Archer from Kent State.

    He is tiny RB from the MAC but at the very least he will be a top tier kick returner in the pros. He plays much tougher than his size and might be the fastest player at the combine.

    I know we haven’t had much success with Kent State (looking at you Winters) but I think this guy is worth looking into.

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