The return of the free-agent running back

The return of the free-agent running back

Wed Mar 21, 2018 2:38 am

Running backs were not an afterthought in the first 48 hours of free-agency negotiations. The head of the Backs Need Love Too committee, Todd Gurley, will take the small victory. "[The market] is changing, brother -- we're back," Gurley declared from the Pro Bowl. Not sure Gurley was hotly anticipating the free-agency status of Jerick Authentic Josh Bynes Jersey McKinnon, Dion Lewis and Carlos Hyde when he said that. But those guys did running backs everywhere a solid by landing multiyear deals worth between $5 and $7.5 million per year, despite failing to finish inside the league's top http://www.officialrockieshop.com/authentic-56-greg-holland-jersey.html 10 in rushing. Dmitry Kulikov Authentic Jersey The numbers signal at least mild progress for a position that needs it entering future negotiations with stars such as Gurley, Le'Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott.

An NFL agent who negotiated a sizable tailback contract this week said the positional market hardly felt as devalued as it has been perceived. "It was a good set of circumstances where you have a number of good players on the market with diverse skill sets and teams with cap space," the agent said. "Teams went into free agency with their guy in mind and what they were willing to spend. I'm pleased to see the group as a whole get an uptick."

McKinnon's new four-year, $30 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers doubled that of Latavius Murray, who was the highest-paid back in last year's free-agency period at $15 million over three years. In Minnesota, Murray was the team's leading rusher ahead of McKinnon, who served mostly as a third-down back during his four years in purple. But McKinnon's versatile skill set -- 991 total yards on 201 touches last year, including 51 receptions -- drew interest from multiple teams hoping to fill a major need. The 49ers were prepared to make McKinnon their feature back. Now, he's the league's fourth-highest-paid rusher on a per-year average. His deal includes $11.7 million guaranteed at signing.
Considering the draft class is loaded with good running backs, that is a strong number. McKinnon's per-year payout is nearly on par with that of Devonta Freeman ($8.25 million per year), despite the Atlanta Falcon gaining 1,928 more total yards over a four-year sample. The 49ers are moving on from Hyde, who did just fine with a three-year, $15 million deal (plus $1 million incentive) from the Cleveland Browns. Lewis parlayed a 940-yard rushing season with the New England Patriots into $20 million plus incentives over four years with the Tennessee Titans.
These numbers won't turn back the clock to 2011, or even 2016 when Doug Martin received a $35 million deal. But the trio's potential average payout of $6.29 million per year is well above the top three backs from last year. Murray, Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy averaged $4.375 million annually on their 2017 deals, while Murray was the only one awarded a three-year contract. Peterson had to wait more than a http://www.steelersofficialsstore.com/Lc_Greenwood_Jersey_Cheap month for a two-year pact from the New Orleans Saints, and Lacy's one-year agreement with the Seattle Seahawks included weight clauses. Both are free agents once again.
This year's uptick can be traced to tailbacks in their prime finding teams that play to their strengths. Hyde runs well out of shotgun formations, which the Browns will certainly run with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. Lewis gains yards after contact. McKinnon's pass-catching ability should complement Jimmy Garoppolo well. The 49ers can line him up all Michael Roberts Jersey over the formation as a receiver. Isaiah Crowell, who signed for three years and $12 million, gives the New York Jets a power back for the cold.
"Even if a guy's not an every-down back, if you're a team with running back as one of several needs, you'll spend good money for a player you know you can pair with a draft pick or another veteran in the backfield," said one NFL coach whose team was in the market for free-agent running backs. "The game has evolved," Gurley said. "You look at guys like Le'Veon. Back in the day, we used to be more run-run-run. Now it's kind of pass, and we want to get in on the fun, too." Make no mistake, Bell's negotiations with Pittsburgh this offseason will be a true barometer for the health of the position. Bell's franchise tag is worth $14.544 million, and he won't accept a long-term deal for less than that amount per year.
But if San Authentic Mark Pysyk Jersey Francisco can pay a running back $7.5 million alongside fullback Kyle Juszczyk at $5.25 million per year, perhaps hope remains for the high-priced workhorse. "We do so much for an offense," Bell said in an interview last week. "We just want to be recognized for that work." The long-rumored connection between the Vikings and Cousins came to fruition on Tuesday, when the two sides agreed to a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract, per Adam Schefter. Cousins joins Minnesota following six seasons in Washington. Initially the backup to Robert Griffin III, Cousins took over as the full-time starter in 2015 and has posted three consecutive top-eight fantasy seasons. Cousins has ranked http://www.authenticangelsshop.com/authentic-4-brandon-phillips-jersey.html no lower than 12th in pass attempts, eighth in completions, 10th in yards, 13th in touchdowns, 10th in completion percentage and 11th in yards per attempt each of the past three seasons. He also added 13 touchdowns with his legs during the span, which trailed only Cam Newton (21) and Tyrod Taylor (14).
Cousins put together a strong 2017 season despite struggling to connect with top wide receivers Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder and Terrelle Pryor Sr. and dealing with injuries to standouts Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson. His supporting cast in Minnesota will be significantly better. Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs were both top-20 fantasy wide receivers last season and combined to handle 46 percent of the team's targets. Cousins will also have second-year Dalvin Cook in the backfield and Kyle Rudolph at tight end. Minnesota additionally has one of the league's best defenses, which might limit Cousins' second-half pass attempts but should shorten the field and allow more scoring opportunities.

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