Future Free Agents: Running Backs

The San Diego Chargers in the market for a running back? It sounds ludicrous. But there is more than a growing suspicion that Michael Turner will be traded this off-season. WIth nearly 30 running backs available via free agency, the Chargers could find a replacement via that route.

The hottest running back commodity on the restricted/unrestricted market is none other than Michael Turner. The backup running back has averaged 6.0 yards per carry over the last three seasons, culminating in a 6.3 mark this past season - 502 yards on 80 carries.

As a restricted free agent, the Chargers have the rights to match any offer he receives and will put at least a first-round tender on him, if not a first and third.

The trade market for his services has already begun and teams will be anxious to see what the Chargers do. The New York Jets and New York Giants have already bandied about his name and there will be other suitors.

With that said, the Bolts can't do anything in free agency until his situation is resolved. Getting out from under the shadow of LaDainian Tomlinson seems to be in his future and investing a first round pick in this known commodity doesn't seem far-fetched for a team looking to lock up a potential franchise back in his prime.

Should he be moved, the talent level to replace him isn't quite on par.

The free-agent class isn't pretty, but here are some of the top options that will be available if unsigned by March 2.

Chris Brown, Tennessee Titans – After a 1,067-yard rushing season in 2004, Chris Brown appeared to be on his way to more 1,000-yard seasons. But after a 851-yard performance in 2005, his numbers declined to 156 yards in 2006 after starting three games and playing in two more. The Titans aren't expected to re-sign him.

Correll Buckhalter, Philadelphia Eagles – Buckhalter has been in the league six seasons, but he's only played in three of those years, as injuries have wracked and wrecked his once-promising career. He had 586 yards rushing as a rookie in 2001 and 542 in 2003. He returned in 2006 after two seasons on the sidelines for 345 yards rushing.

Ahman Green, Green Bay Packers – Green proved that he can still be a 1,000-yard rusher in 2006 – his sixth season doing it in the last seven years – but after 1,871 carries over the course of his nine-year career, the question is how much tread he has left on the tire. Although he missed 11 games in 2005, he has proven to be durable and a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield as well.

Dominic Rhodes, Indianapolis Colts – Rhodes rejuvenated his career in Indianapolis with the departure of Edgerrin James, but the Colts have a young hotshot in Joseph Addai who got more work than Rhodes and became a starter in the playoffs. Addai rushed 266 times for 1,081 yards in the regular season, while Rhodes started every game and rushed 187 times for 641 yards. Rhodes probably isn't a workhorse back, but he could pass the test in a two-back system like Indianapolis employed in 2006. His future employer is far from certain.

OTHER FREE-AGENT RUNNING BACKS

Dee Brown, Kansas City Chiefs
Aveion Cason, Detroit Lions
Najeh Davenport, Pittsburgh Steelers
Stephen Davis, St. Louis Rams
Ron Dayne, Houston Texans
T.J. Duckett, Washington Redskins (not expected back)
Joe Echema, Oakland Raiders (restricted, formerly Adimchinobe Echemandu)
Tony Fisher, St. Louis Rams
Arlen Harris, Detroit Lions
Maurice Hicks, San Francisco 49ers (restricted)
Vonta Leach, Houston Texans (restricted)
Reno Mahe, Philadelphia Eagles
Travis Minor, Miami Dolphins
Josh Parry, Seattle Seahawks (restricted)
Artose Pinner, Minnesota Vikings (restricted)
Dominic Rhodes, Indianapolis Colts
Jamal Robertson, Atlanta Falcons
B.J. Sams, Baltimore Ravens (restricted)
Josh Scobey, Seattle Seahawks
Marcel Shipp, Arizona Cardinals
Musa Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Anthony Thomas, Buffalo Bills
LaBrandon Toefield, Jacksonville Jaguars
Derrick Ward, New York Giants (restricted)
Kenny Watson, Cincinnati Bengals
Shaud Williams, Buffalo Bills (restricted)


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