NY Jets: Top 5 free agent running backs to target
Dec 27, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA;Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs out of the tunnel before the game against the Chicago Bears at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
When free agency hits for the NY Jets, will only have one running back officially on the roster in Zac Stacy. Gang Green should consider targeting some of the top free agents to hit the market at the position.
Bilal Powell was a key back for the Jets in 2015. He gave them a receiving threat out of the backfield and helped spark a great winning streak.
Chris Ivory had the best season of his career. That could command a lot of dollars as he is no doubt looking for a nice new contract to remain with the Jets. He would be seeking his last big contract in the NFL because he’s almost 30, the magic number for running backs.
Let’s examine the top backs that are/could be available. The Jets might not bring back one or even both of these running backs depending on how contract talks go. Should that scenario happen, here are some options the Jets can explore when free agency arrives.
Next: 5. Marshawn Lynch
Nov 15, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) rushes against the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Rumors are abound that Lynch is out of Seattle. All indications are there’s a rift between him and the organization.
He struggled with injuries this season. He also has hit that magic age of 30 for running backs which means he realistically has just a few years left before he hits a decline.
He could be on the verge of being cut. This would cost Seattle $5M, but it would save them $6.5M off their salary cap.
He knows what it’s like to be the at the top of the mountain. If he’s willing to take a drastic pay-cut for the chance to win a Super Bowl, he could be a good fit for the Jets.
Next: 4. Matt Forte
Dec 28, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) rushes against the Minnesota Vikings in the third quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 13-9. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
4. Matt Forte
Forte is a dual-threat running back. His running skills match what Chris Ivory gave us this season.
He’s more of the elusive type rather than the power back. He would fill the Bilal Powell role should the Jets want to bring in either his replacement or another hybrid.
Like Lynch though, he has hit that 30 year-old benchmark for running backs. The combination of that and the salary demands could keep him away from the Jets.
He made $9.2M this season. He will have to take a drastic pay-cut to get on the Jets’ roster but if a deal could be made, would have major potential in 2016.
Next: 3. Bilal Powell
Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Jets running back Bilal Powell (29) runs for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
3. Bilal Powell
It took five seasons, but Powell has found his niche in the NFL. He’s not a feature back but his role for Jets this season was a productive one adding a nice receiving option out of the backfield.
In his role as the spell and pass catching back, he had his best season. His role allows him to stay cheap and the taste of the playoff race may cause him to desire staying to help this franchise go the distance in 2016.
He cost the Jets $1.5M this season and with the role he had it won’t cost much more than that. Of course, he could think his talents demand more money elsewhere.
After his play this season, a team may be willing to overpay and use him as the feature back. The Jets can’t fall into the trap of a bidding war though. As a free agent that will garner attention in free agency, the Jets should do their best to bring him back since if he’s fully healthy, adds a nice dimension offensively.
Next: 2. Chris Ivory
Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) runs with the ball while avoiding a tackle attempt by New England Patriots outside linebacker Dont’a Hightower (54) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
2. Chris Ivory
Ivory unarguably had his best season. He had 4.3 yards per carry, his first 1,000+ yard season and a career high in touchdowns at seven.
His salary last season was $2.75M. He will command more than that this year because he’s 27 years old and seeking a big payday.
Now, there are ways to make this work and give him a payday. If I were the Jets, I would present him a back-loaded contract since it would be ideal to bring him back as many teams will be looking to acquire his services as a free agent.
This allows him to show he can repeat his performance while saving the Jets money this year. If he under performs, they can either work out a restructuring or cut him later.
Next: 1. Doug Martin
Dec 13, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs for a touchdown during the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
1. Doug Martin
Like Ivory, he’s 27 years old and about to hit some prime years in his career. Also like Ivory, he could be seeking a big payday in free agency.
His stats may show that he deserves the payday however. He had 1,402 yards, 4.8 yards per carry and six touchdowns.
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It may be easier to workout a back-loaded contract with Martin as opposed to Ivory though. The Jets can look at one key stat to get a more reasonable number for next season: fumbles.
Unlike Ivory, who only lost two fumbles, Martin lost five. The Jets can’t afford to have that given their inconsistency offensively this season. Aside from that, Martin on the Jets could be quite the catalyst on offense.