With ample salary cap space, the New York Jets should be major players in free agency as they try to end a four year playoff drought. Here are the top 5 unrestricted free agents at the running back position the Jets could potentially target:
Who: Shane Vereen
Why: Weakening a division rival by taking away their best running back? That’s exactly what this move does. Vereen is criminally underrated for his versatility and pass catching ability. He has two career fumbles in 324 touches, and is only 25 years old. He has struggled to stay healthy, playing in only 16 games once, but would weaken the Patriots and bring a much needed pass catching dimension to Chan Gailey’s offense.
Who: CJ Spiller
Why: A career 5 yards per carry average and familiarity with new Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey put Spiller at the top of many free agent rankings for the Jets.. When healthy, Spiller is explosive with the football in his hands. He had 3 straight seasons of 30+ catches, and his impact on specials cannot be overstated. He’s averaged a career 12 yards per punt return and 24.3 yards per kick return. He would immediately upgrade there, while providing a great change of pace back for projected starter Chris Ivory.
Who: Darren McFadden
Why: The former Arkansas Razor Back would be an excellent change of pace back to pair with Chris Ivory. McFadden is a rung below Vereen and Spiller and he is older too. However, he just showed that he can be healthy for 16 games this past season. McFadden can catch out of the backfield, and he displayed more of a knack for running in between the tackles this past year. Should the Jets miss out on Vereen or Spiller, McFadden might be a good consolation prize.
Who: Ryan Matthews
Why: 4.4 yards per carry career wise and 146 career receptions make Matthews an intriguing addition to the Jets depth chart. Matthews, like the first 3 running backs on this list, has battled injuries but when healthy has been a tough runner with great hands out of the backfield. Matthews is very good in the blitz pickup game. The one knock, aside from his health, is he has a bit of a fumbling problem; 14 fumbles in 60 games has me ranking him as the 4th free agent running back.
Who: Jacquizz Rodgers
Why: The most accomplished pass catching running back on the free agent market. Rodgers has two 50 catch seasons on his resume. He is actually the exact opposite of Ivory size wise, as the Kraken towers over him. However, as a weapon in the slot or out of the backfield Rodgers would pose a serious threat. 155 career receptions out of 189 targets give him the best catch rate of all free agent running backs as well. He could be had for good value and give the Jets a much needed boost on Special Teams as well.