NFL Free Agency 2021: Top 10 Running Backs & Their Landing Spots

By Alex Kurpeski

While paying big money for a running back is almost always a disaster, there are some true stars in this year’s crop of talent. As we’ve seen with Le’Veon Bell and Melvin Gordon, chasing the money sometimes comes at the expense of production. It remains to be seen which of these aspects these players value. 

 

Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

Jones is the cream of the crop from this group, as he’s been one of the best backs in the league since the start of 2019. An explosive runner with a very well-rounded skill set and very little injury baggage, Jones has the potential to fetch a huge deal on the open market. While I’m sure the Packers (and Aaron Rodgers) would love to keep Jones in the fold, he may simply be too expensive for their liking. A team like the Jets could make the running back an offer he can’t refuse. 

Best Fit: Green Bay

Most Likely Landing Spot: New York Jets

 

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

When he’s rolling, Carson is one of the most dominant runners in the NFL. A bigger back at 6’0, 220 lbs, the former Oklahoma State star is an interesting free agent. As great as he is when he’s on, Carson isn’t the best pass-catcher and he’s suffered numerous injuries already in his young career. Will the Seahawks throw big money at him when they could just as easily replace him with younger, cheaper options? I’m not so sure. A team like the Texans might though, especially if they cut ties with oft-injured David Johnson. 

Best Fit: Seattle

Most Likely Landing Spot: Houston

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

Conner is a strange player to evaluate. He’s talented — there’s no question about that. He’s also been a stable three-down back for the Steelers for the last three seasons. But is he worth a big contract? Eh, it’s hard to say. I’m inclined to think he takes a hometown discount to stay in Pittsburgh for the next few years, even if it means passing up a better opportunity to showcase himself. 

Best Fit: Miami

Most Likely Landing Spot: Pittsburgh

 

Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals

Drake is what he is. A solid running back who works best in rotation with another back of similar talent. The Cardinals could look to re-up with him at a discounted price, but I think Drake may be better off to test the market and trick a team into betting on his 2019 performance. 

Best Fit: Arizona

Most Likely Landing Spot: Green Bay

 

Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

I think the Falcons like Gurley. I think Gurley likes the Falcons too. I’m assuming they’ll link up for another short-term deal. 

Best Fit: Atlanta

Most Likely Landing Spot: Atlanta

 

Philip Lindsay, Denver Broncos

Lindsay may be the most underrated back in the NFL. A two-time 1,000-yard rusher, the former undrafted free agent may be the target of a variety of teams looking at the second tier of backs in this class. An elusive runner who does a great job of creating yards for himself, Lindsay is the ideal change-of-pace back for a team like the Dolphins.

Best Fit: Miami

Most Likely Landing Spot: Miami

 

Le’Veon Bell, Kansas City Chiefs

Could a reunion with the Steelers be in the cards for Bell? Probably not. But the Patriots could look to bring him into their stable of backs, especially if they move on from Sony Michel. 

Best Fit: Pittsburgh

Most Likely Landing Spot: New England

 

Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Oh, how far the mighty have fallen. Fournette lasted only three seasons with Jacksonville after being the 4th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Now he’s a plodding back for a stagnant Tampa Bay offense, stuck behind Ronald Jones. I expect a team like the Seahawks to sign Fournette to a “prove it” deal, as he fits their archetype to a tee. 

Best Fit: Seattle

Most Likely Landing Spot: Seattle

 

Mike Davis, Carolina Panthers

Davis has played well in place of Christian McCaffrey. I expect the Panthers to reward him for this with an extension in the offseason. 

Best Fit: Carolina Panthers

Most Likely Landing Spot: Carolina Panthers

 

James White, New England Patriots

Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

James White has been the perfect Patriot for his whole career. He’s taken up the Kevin Faulk role for this team and it’s hard to imagine him playing anywhere else. 

Best Fit: New England

Most Likely Landing Spot: New England

 

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