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Ideal Landing Spots in 2024 Free Agency: Running Back

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This is one of the best running back free agency classes in years.

Some of the top fantasy options over the years will likely be playing for new teams in 2024, which will obviously impact the entire fantasy landscape. It is always interesting to see what kind of contracts teams are going to hand out to this position but as you can see, there are some really good players available this offseason.

 

Check out the “best fit in free agency series”: QB | WR | TE

Ideal Landing Spots in 2024 Free Agency: Running Backs

Derrick Henry

Age: 30
Ideal landing spot: Baltimore Ravens

After taking home multiple rushing titles during his illustrious Tennessee tenure, Derrick Henry is now set to play elsewhere for the first time in his career. At 30 years old, there has been plenty of discussion regarding how much Henry has left, especially after averaging 305.8 carries per year since 2019. But last year, Henry posted a near 20% avoided tackle rate, which is important considering how bad the Titans’ run-blocking was. Henry averaged just 1.62 yards before contact per rush last tear, and 454 of his 1,167 rushing yards came before contact (38.9%). And according to FTN Data, Henry was contacted in the backfield on 27.1% of his carries.

A move to Baltimore could be very fun.

For starters, the zone-read, power run game with Henry and Lamar Jackson could be unstoppable. And given the gravity that Jackson has on opposing defenses, Henry would see a lot more open lanes to run the football. Just look at some of the Baltimore running backs over the years when it comes to yards before contact:

Player Year YBC/ATT Rank
Keaton Mitchell 2023 5.1 1st
Kenyan Drake 2022 3.3 3rd
Devonta Freeman 2021 2.8 5th
J.K. Dobbins 2020 3.1 2nd
Gus Edwards 2019 2.5 11th

It is unlikely Henry suddenly becomes a 40-catch candidate in Baltimore, but this is the best spot for him to be efficient, and the offense is obviously very good, as well. 

Saquon Barkley

Age: 27
Ideal landing spot: Houston Texans

Saquon Barkley New York Giants 2024 Fantasy Football NFL Ideal Landing Spots in Free Agency Running Backs

The Giants are not using the franchise tag on Saquon Barkley, meaning he will enter free agency. There are a few obvious ideal teams, but I think the Texans make the most sense. For starters, Devin Singletary, who emerged as the team’s lead back last year, is now a free agent. The reason Singletary emerged last year? Dameon Pierce didn’t fit well with Bobby Slowik’s outside zone run scheme. Singletary was more effective, but he doesn’t have the speed and explosiveness as Barkley. It’ll be interesting to see if Houston leans more toward the pass in C.J. Stroud’s second season, as the Texans only called pass on 49.2% of early downs, one of the lowest rates in the league. But regardless, the volume should be strong, as Singletary saw a 69% snap share, 70% rush share and averaged 19 touches per game since taking over the backfield in Week 9. He was the RB13 in fantasy during that span. In an ascending offense, Barkley would have top-seven fantasy upside. Of course, almost any move would be better for Barkley, as the Giants have ranked 30th, 18th, 31st, 31st and 18th in scoring offense since he entered the league.

Josh Jacobs

Age: 26
Ideal landing spot: Las Vegas Raiders/Dallas Cowboys

After playing on the franchise tag in 2023, Josh Jacobs could play elsewhere for the first time in his career, however, I think we could see him return to Las Vegas. Head coach Antonio Pierce and Jacobs have built a great relationship, and it sounds like the Raiders want their top running back to stay home. Of course, it is worth pointing out that the team has a new general manager in Tom Telesco, so we’ll see. If Jacobs stays in Las Vegas, we know what his role is going to be. Over the last two seasons, Jacobs has seen a carry or a target on 40.6% and 41% of his snaps, the highest and third-highest rates in football. And that volume is crucial for Jacobs, who hasn’t been the most efficient back in the league over the last few seasons.

If it isn’t Las Vegas, Dallas is an ideal destination. Tony Pollard will also test free agency and although he wasn’t 100% healthy, his audition as the every-down running back last year did not deserve a standing ovation. Pollard got plenty of short-yardage opportunities (12 carries inside the 5-yard line) but converted them into just three touchdowns. Jacobs could do much better in a similar role.

Austin Ekeler

Age: 28
Ideal landing spot: Chicago Bears/Los Angeles Chargers

The Bears have a ton of money, entering free agency with over $56 million in cap space (sixth in the NFL). We saw them spend a lot during last year’s free agency period, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. If we expect Chicago to select Caleb Williams first overall this April, it would be wise for them to get the rookie some help on offense in March. Austin Ekeler fought through a nasty ankle sprain for much of last year and just didn’t look right, which led to a down season. Still, he remains one of the most reliable pass-catching (and protecting) backs in the league, which is an ideal player to have next to Williams. 

Tony Pollard

Age: 26
Ideal landing spot: Philadelphia Eagles

At the moment, the Eagles have three running backs (D’Andre Swift, Boston Scott, Rashaad Penny) as free agents. Swift could absolutely return to Philadelphia but if he doesn’t, the Eagles will have to address the position. Trading his star decal for an Eagles one wouldn’t sit well with many Cowboys’ fans, but the connection is there with new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who was with Pollard in Dallas. I’d expect Pollard to live in the 14- to 17-touch range with the Eagles, though the touchdown upside is a question mark. Even with Jason Kelce retiring, I’d imagine Phill’s patented “tush push” isn’t going away. Jalen Hurts had 16 carries inside the 5-yard line last year, the sixth most in the NFL. He was also responsible for over 53% of the team’s carries from that area of the field.

D’Andre Swift

Age: 25
Ideal landing spot: The NFC East

D'Andre Swift Philadelphia Eagles 2024 Fantasy Football NFL Ideal Landing Spots in Free Agency Running Backs

There is a good chance that all four NFC East teams are looking for running back help this offseason. D’Andre Swift’s first season with the Eagles was mostly a success, as he rushed for 1,049 yards and five touchdowns. His 5.7% juke rate was a career-high, while his 20.1% avoided tackle rate was right next to his career-high. On one hand, you’d like to see Swift return to Philadelphia because he’d remain the lead back in a great offense. But on the other hand, you’d also love some damn touchdowns. Hurts had 13 rushing touchdowns from inside the five-yard line last year, the most in football, while Swift was tackled at the one-yard line six times, the third-most in the league. Washington and New York actually make a ton of sense for Swift if he doesn’t return to the Eagles. 

J.K. Dobbins

Age: 25
Ideal landing spot: Los Angeles Chargers/Green Bay Packers

Injuries continue to derail J.K. Dobbins’ career, as the Ohio State product unfortunately tore his Achilles in Week 1 of last season, after missing the entire 2021 campaign following a torn ACL. He’s now played just nine games over the last two seasons, so it’ll be interesting to see what the market looks like for him in free agency. My two favorite landing spots are Los Angeles and Green Bay. The Chargers one makes sense, as former Ravens’ offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who Dobbins was with 2020-2022, is now calling plays in Los Angeles.

I also think Green Bay is not only in play for Dobbins, but a sleeper team that could home in on one of the top running backs from this free agent class. After all, they were reportedly trying to trade for Jonathan Taylor before last season started. Anyway, AJ Dillon is a free agent and Green Bay, although they may not re-sign him, will want someone to split work with Aaron Jones. Dobbins can live in that 8- to 10-touch range, which is most likely where he’ll be on most teams considering the injury history. 

AJ Dillon

Age: 25
Ideal landing spot: Tennessee Titans

AJ Dillon operated as the 1B in Green Bay when Aaron Jones was healthy, but last year he saw multiple opportunities as the lead option with Jones sidelined. He definitely underwhelmed, averaging just 9.1 PPR points, 55.5 rushing yards and 14.2 receiving yards per game in six games with Jones sidelined. I think a logical spot for Dillon would be Tennessee, who will be moving on from Derrick Henry and could use someone with more size to compliment Tyjae Spears

Cordarrelle Patterson

Age: 32
Ideal landing spot: Buffalo Bills

Cordarrelle Patterson Atlanta Falcons 2024 Fantasy Football NFL Ideal Landing Spots in Free Agency Running Backs

Cordarrelle Patterson will be 33 in a few weeks, but I still think he can help many teams, including the Bills. Both Damien Harris and Latavius Murray are free agents, and while James Cook was very good in his sophomore season, he had some inconsistencies as a pass-catcher. Patterson could give this offense even more versatility. 

Antonio Gibson

Age: 25
Ideal landing spot: Kansas City Chiefs

Antonio Gibson has not been able to build upon his impressive first two NFL seasons, but a move to Kansas City could be fun. Both Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon are free agents, and Gibson could be a solid complement to Isiah Pacheco. Gibson has been very productive off screen passes throughout his career and no team dials up screens like the Chiefs do, especially to the running back position.

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