NY Jets: 3 free agent running backs who could boost the team’s passing attack

NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

As the NY Jets prepare for both free agency and the upcoming draft, they once again find themselves with many positions of need.

On the offensive side of the ball alone, the Jets find themselves with several positions that will need to be upgraded if they are to take the steps necessary for a large measure of improvement in 2021.

One of those positions will be running back.

In today’s NFL, more and more teams are utilizing the running back by committee approach to add more diversity to their offense and to decrease the wear and tear on one individual player.

In 2020, the Jets drafted La’Mical Perine in the fourth round of the draft and also claimed Ty Johnson after he was waived by the Detroit Lions. While both players showed moments of promise, the jury is still out on their true potential.

The Jets could address this position once again in the draft, but a versatile and veteran back could provide valuable leadership and guidance to the younger players.

In addition, a running back who can catch passes out of the backfield could provide another weapon for a team in need of a boost to their passing game. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three current free agents who could possibly fill that void for the Jets in 2021.

3. The NY Jets could target James White

Over the last seven years, James White has established himself as one of the premier pass-catching running backs in the NFL. He ranks as one of the best all-time receivers in New England Patriots history at the running back position.

White is also a three-time Super Bowl Champion and a team captain. He has 369 career receptions and caught a franchise record of 87 passes for 751 yards in 2018.

2020 was a very tough year for White as he played with a heavy heart after the tragic loss of his father in a car accident which also critically injured his mother. White still managed to catch 49 passes including seven for touchdowns.

Bill Belichick has a tendency to move on from veteran players a year or two earlier than most coaches and, at 29 years of age, he may consider White expendable. White would be a great complement to the Jets’ young running backs and provide them with needed leadership.

If the Patriots choose to move on from White, the Jets should seriously consider signing him to a short-term deal.

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2. The NY Jets could target Mike Davis

Mike Davis proved in 2020 that he can be an every-down running back in the NFL.  Because of multiple injuries to Christian McCaffrey, Davis wound up starting 12 games for the Carolina Panthers.

He performed extremely well and beyond expectations. Davis not only ran the ball well but also displayed excellent receiving ability. He finished 2020 with 59 receptions for 375 yards and compiled a total of 1,015 yards from scrimmage.

In his career, Davis has accumulated a total of 125 receptions proving that 2020 was not a fluke.  With McCaffrey’s return imminent, Mike Davis will almost certainly look to go to a team where he will play more and earn a salary more conducive to that of a starting running back.

Davis will start next season at age 28 and could provide the Jets with the athletic, pass-catching type of running back that they need and at a reasonable cost.

1. The NY Jets could target Jamaal Williams

Over the past four years, Jamaal Williams has proven to be a versatile and dependable running back for the Green Bay Packers. He has been utilized primarily as the backup running back to Aaron Jones over the last couple of seasons.

However, when called upon Williams has filled in admirably. In the two-plus games that Jones missed with injury, Williams rushed for 216 yards and hauled in 13 receptions.

The Packers would love to re-sign Williams, but with Jones being a free agent as well, it will be extremely difficult to bring both players back. Jones will likely be the Packers’ first priority leaving Williams to search for a new team.

In his career, Williams has compiled a total of 122 receptions for 966 yards including eight touchdowns. He has also rushed for a total of 1,985 yards making him an appealing dual threat out of the backfield.

Williams will be 26-years-old by next season and will be looking for a team where his role will be expanded beyond that of a backup. The BYU product could provide the Jets with a multi-faceted type player who’s just hitting his prime.

Next. NY Jets: 4 free agent targets that will likely receive the franchise tag

If he remains available the Jets should make a serious attempt to add him in the offseason.