The best free agent running backs aren’t going anywhere. The rest of the free agent running backs aren’t too inspiring.
Perhaps this is the year where NFL teams realize you don’t need to overpay runners in free agency.
Assuming Arian Foster — a restricted free agent — stays in Houston, that leaves Michael Bush as perhaps the most complete back likely to hit the open market. We’d rank Peyton Hillis, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cedric Benson, and Mike Tolbert as the next guys in line.
Bush wore down late last year, failing to top 80 rushing yards in his last six starts. He’s better used as a complementary player. Tolbert may be the best value of the group because he has a versatile skill and won’t cost a lot. Benson no longer breaks tackles and can’t help on passing downs.
Hillis and BGE are examples why you shouldn’t overpay for backs.
Hillis would have cost a lot more money a year ago, but his limitations, attitude problems, and injury issues popped up in 2011. Green-Ellis entered the league as an undrafted free agent and wound up as the starting running back on the No. 1 AFC seed the last two years.
Instead of paying Green-Ellis in free agency, teams should look to find the next Law Firm late in the draft. Or after the draft is over.