The 2021 Running Back free-agent class is going to shake up the NFL

Updated: Jul 23


When Adam Schefter tweeted this image out, my mind raced to where these guys might end up. I was doing research and prep work like I was about to draft in the first rounds of my own fantasy football leagues. This a start-studded talented group of athletes. They put up some serious scrimmage yards (and fantasy points) last season. It is going to be a fun offseason next year.


Granted, many of these guys won't even touch the free-agent market. We already saw the Panthers lock up Christan McCaffrey on a four-year $64 million dollar deal back in April. Although many big-time names will be remaining with their respective teams, this free-agent class is going to shake up the league. We will see teams dish out some high dollars to keep their offensive weapons, which will result in them having to make some tough decisions with other players on their squad. We will also see other big-name running backs pack their bags and head to their new homes. Plus there is a productive and impressive 2021 draft class of RB's that will hit the league including the likes of Travis Etienne of Clemson, Chuba Hubbard of Oklahoma State, and Najee Harris of Alabama just to name a few.


It will be interesting to see how teams will address the position in free agency. There is a lot of money in football contracts but according to Overthecap.com, only five running backs were slated to make $10 million and up annually heading into the 2020 season. This is relatively low compared to the 20 Quarterbacks, 24 Wide Receivers, and 46 Offensive Lineman. Many see this position as a "dying breed". Teams can win a Super Bowl without a star #1 back. Just look at the last five winners (Chiefs: Damien Williams, Patriots: Sony Michael, Eagles: Jay Ajayi, Patriots: LeGarrette Blount, Broncos: Ronnie Hillman). None of those names jump out of the page like a Saquon Barkley, CMC, or Ezekial Elliot. But you can't dismiss those teams for drafting those generational talents and ultimately paying them the big bucks.


Photo: Yahoo Sports, NFL


We will have to wait another year and see how these players ball out this upcoming season (let's hope there is one) and earn their new contracts. Here are some presumptive thoughts on where these backs may end up.


"Will the stay or will the go"


Stay


· Derrek Henry – Titans

o Derrek Henry and the Titans agreed to a 4-year extension worth $50 million dollars earlier this week. The larger than life power back, who racks in hundreds of yards a game, will try to take his team back to the AFC championship game and beyond for years to come.

· Dalvin Cook – Vikings

o Dalvin Cook wants to be paid as a top RB. His chances just increased after the Derek Henry deal and there are reports that he is in talks with Minnesota.

· Aaron Jones – Packers

o If Aaron Rodgers is still the starter for Green Bay, there is no way he will let the team’s leadership let go of Aaron Jones.

· Alvin Kamara – Saints

o Kamara is better than Mark Ingram, the Saints won’t let him walk as they did with him.

· James Connor – Steelers

o Pittsburgh has had its running back controversy already with LeVeon Bell. There is no chance that they will want to repeat history.

· Kenyan Drake – Cardinals

o After leaving Miami, Kenyan Drake flashed high potential under the Kingsbury offense. He is a nice weapon for young Quarterback, Kyler Murray.

· Matt Breida – Dolphins

o Breida had success with the 49ers but then was traded to Miami on draft night. There have been no talks of extension with the team just yet, but the Dolphins could land him again on a friendly deal.

Go


· Leonard Fournette – Patriots

o Sony Michael isn’t the answer and Leonard Fournette wants out of Jacksonville. This is a marriage waiting to happen.

· Joe Mixon – Seahawks

o The Bengals are ready to move on and rebuild around Joe Burrow. Mixon is a high quality back who could thrive on a playoff-ready team like Seattle.

· Phillip Lindsay – Dolphins

o The undrafted pro-bowler took Denver by storm. With the addition of Melvin Gordon and the young core of Receivers, Lindsay may be the odd man out and seek the team that pays him the most.

· Marlon Mack – Eagles

o The Colts have a productive Nyheim Hines and recent draft pick Jonathan Taylor on their depth chart. It is a crowded backfield, to say the least. Marlon Mack fits the mold of Philly’s previous running backs, and he could be the next one to take reps with Carson Wentz.

· Todd Gurley – Buccaneers

o The Bucs were one of Todd Gurley’s teams he was interested in signing with. He could be a huge addition to a stacked Tampa Bay offense under the new leadership of Tom Brady.

· Kareem Hunt – Falcons

o Kareem Hunt signed his restricted tender with Cleveland, who hopes to pair him with their stud, Nick Chubb, for another season. Hunt will want to be the number one feature in the backfield again, and Atlanta could look to sign him if Todd Gurley leaves.

· Tarik Cohen – Bills

o If the Bears trade for Raheem Mostert, Tarik Cohen could be looking for work elsewhere. He is a versatile back and could be a nice 1-2 punch alongside Devin Singletary.

· Chris Carson - Jets

o His time with Seattle wasn’t the best, but he is a workhorse running back. When healthy, he creates great success for an offense. Similar to Tarik Cohen, pairing him with LeVeon Bell would be lethal for the Jets.


May the odds be ever in your favor, 2021 free agent Running Backs.

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