[Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series of position
snapshots previewing the 2010 NFL free agency period. Check out the quarterbacks, tight
ends, offensive linemen, defensive
linemen, linebackers and defensive
Top unrestricted free agent running backs:
1. Darren Sproles: He may not be a workhorse, but Sproles is a true difference maker on passing downs and returns. Unlike the rest of this list, he’s in his prime. It will be difficult for the Chargers to keep him.
2. Thomas Jones: The guy can do everything well, if nothing great at this stage in his career. Jones would benefit from a decreased workload.
3. Chester Taylor: A terrific third-down back that can start on occasion. He’s the same age as many backs here, but has far less mileage on his legs.
4. Willie Parker: Slowing Down Willie Parker doesn’t have the same ring to it. He can’t help on passing downs, but could still be a capable backup. Don’t expect a return to Pittsburgh.
5. Brian Westbrook: The concussion issue looms over any signing. If he gets clearance to play, we still think he could help a team.
6. LaDainian Tomlinson: Will he truly be happy with a secondary role? Tomlinson fits best now as a situational third-down back.
7. Larry Johnson: The diapers are off. In running back years, he’s not far from Depends.
8. Kevin Faulk: The godfather of third-down backs could be attractive to Belichick disciples.
9. Mike Bell: He’s a restricted free agent, but can be acquired without giving up a draft pick.
10. Jamal Lewis: He seems open to playing again, but probably won’t get a deal.
Restricted free agents that are unlikely to change teams:
Carnell Williams, Jerome Harrison, LenDale White, Jerious Norwood, Jason Snelling
Interesting name that could get cut:
Clinton Portis: He should be safe until training camp because most of his salary is guaranteed.
1. Marshawn Lynch, Bills: He’s got a well-rounded game and could use a fresh start.
2. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins: Is it that crazy to give up a first-round pick for Brown? That’s what he’d cost as a restricted free agent.
3. Leon Washington, Jets: A team would have to give up a second-round pick for Leon, which probably won’t happen. The Jets would likely match any offer sheet anyhow.
4. Michael Bush, Raiders: He’s the most intriguing Raiders back, yet oddly seems like the one most available. Oakland should hang on to Bush.
5. Marion Barber, Cowboys: The Cowboys say they won’t deal him, but a move makes a lot of sense.
6. Pierre Thomas, Saints: He would only cost a second-round pick to get, but we suspect the Saints would match any offers.
Teams in the market for RBs:
San Diego, Detroit, Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Minnesota, New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis