Free agency in the East: Running backs


Our first speculative free-agent post was a hit. It was about cornerbacks, and which potential free agents (assuming the labor deal gets done and it returns the required service time for unrestricted free agency to four years) would fit with teams in the NFC East. So, since you seemed to like it, we're going to do the other positions. Running backs are up next.

NFC East teams in need

Giants: This is a conditional "need," of course, since Ahmad Bradshaw, the No. 2 guy on the list below, is a Giant and likely (though not certain!) to sign back with the team. They also could find themselves having to jettison Brandon Jacobs in order to pay Bradshaw. So, depending on the ways in which those situations shake out, the Giants could have no need or a very serious need here.

Eagles: They're set at starter with the brilliant and still-emerging LeSean McCoy. But unless they bring back Jerome Harrison, they'll need a grinder and a change-of-pace guy who's willing to come in and not get the glory McCoy gets. Philly isn't likely to be looking at the guys at the top of this list.

Redskins: The starter reps are most likely to go to some combination of youngsters Ryan Torain and Roy Helu. But in case neither guy can handle that, there remains a chance the Redskins will want to find a veteran back to bring in to mentor them or even start until one of them is ready. Since they have so many other needs, Washington is more likely to bargain-hunt for running backs, but there could be some deals to be found.

Top five potential unrestricted free-agent running backs.

1. DeAngelo Williams. Without the injury problems, he's the clear star of this class. Of course, without the injury history, he'd probably already have been locked up by Carolina. But with Jonathan Stewart on the roster, top receiver Steve Smith's situation in question and top draft pick Cam Newton still to sign, the Panthers might not be able to keep Williams' considerable talents. He's a great fit for the Giants if things fall apart with Bradshaw, but he's not likely what they're looking for in Washington or Philly as long as he's expecting a big contract.

2. Bradshaw. He's said he wants to stay in New York. They've said he's a top priority for them. It all makes sense. But we don't know yet who's going to come knocking and offering money. Bradshaw did just hire Drew Rosenhaus, and you don't do that if you're not planning on at least testing the market. The Giants have a large number of potential free agents, and if Bradshaw's demands go through the roof, there could be an unexpected parting of the ways. It's hard to imagine, however, another NFC East team being the one to outbid the Giants for Bradshaw.

3. Cedric Benson. Likely gone after two productive seasons in Cincinnati, Benson will be looking for a starter's contract. Another guy who might make sense in New York if Bradshaw bolts, he'd also make sense in Philadelphia as the power back to complement McCoy. But he'd almost certainly have to accept a smaller role in Philly than he anticipates, so they probably won't become an option for him unless he first exhausts his opportunities to be a starter.

4. Joseph Addai. He hasn't shown the ability to hold up as a starter over a full season, and he hasn't played in an offense that really uses the run at all. I think he's a real nice fit in Washington, where his skills as a receiver and in pass protection will help John Beck or whoever the potentially overwhelmed quarterback turns out to be.

5. Ronnie Brown. Another guy who, like Addai, is probably best suited for a multiple-back offense. His skill set would make him a perfect Harrison replacement in Philadelphia. But whoever gets that job isn't going to get the ball very much with McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and of course Michael Vick as options on every play. So if Brown doesn't mind going someplace where he won't get many carries, the Eagles could certainly use him.

Predictions that mean nothing: Giants keep Bradshaw and Jacobs, Eagles keep Harrison to back up McCoy, Redskins sign Addai as their needed backfield veteran.