Bilal Powell is a free agent, Chris Johnson recently got arrested for gun possession and likely won’t return next year which means right now the only back we can say will definitely be here next year is Chris Ivory. Ivory is a great back to have and the Jets probably should’ve rode him more at times last year but he can’t be the only real reliable back next year.
This year’s draft class is stock-full of running backs so it’s very possible the Jets could look to the draft to fill this need. Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley, Duke Johnson, Jay Ajayi, Ameer Abdullah, David Cobb and T.J. Yeldon are just some of the best running back prospects available in this year’s draft. All of these players, and a few more, have a lot of talent but the question is where will they be drafted and does the value add up at that point for it to make sense to take a running back instead of filling other needs?
With teams taking running backs later in the draft than ever before combined with some injury concerns and such a deep class it’s possible new GM Mike Maccagnan could find a back with a second round grade still available in the fourth round. That of course would make Maccagnan’s decision rather simple but that’s just a hypothetical thought at this point because it’s equally as likely it doesn’t work out like that.
If Maccagnan wants to draft a running back he can certainly do so, and would likely get a very good back at good value, but if he wants to save his precious draft picks for more valuable positions then he could decide to go the free agent route.
This year’s class of free agent running backs isn’t nearly as deep as the draft but there are a few intriguing options. DeMarco Murray is currently slated for free agency and will likely hit the market, unless the Dallas Cowboys extend Dez Bryant first then use the franchise tag on Murray, but he’s going to command big money, for a running back, and as good as he is the Jets shouldn’t make the mistake of handing out a huge contract to a 27-year-old running back who had 497 touches last year.
Also available will be Ryan Matthews, Mark Ingram, Justin Forsett, Frank Gore, Stevan Ridley, Roy Helu, Ahmad Bradshaw, Darren McFadden, Knowshon Moreno, Ray Rice, Ben Tate, Antone Smith, Daniel Thomas, Jacquizz Rodgers, Cedric Peerman and Leon Washington.
But the two most intriguing names, in my opinion, are C.J. Spiller and Shane Vereen. Spiller and Vereen are completely different types of running backs but they could both offer the Jets something they don’t currently have right now.
Obviously with Spiller the concern would be whether or not he can stay healthy. If he can stay healthy he would be an obvious choice to join the Jets. Spiller had his most productive years with Chan Gailey and has already said he’s interested in joining Gailey in New York. One of the concerns about Gailey coming here is how Ivory will fit in considering Gailey is known to run more of a spread style offense but those concerns would be minimized with the presence of Spiller who is dangerous in the passing game as much as he is as a runner, ball security however is a bit of a concern.
Vereen is solid back but he excels in the passing game. With the Patriots Vereen caught passes out of the backfield, lined up in the slot or motioned outside. He’s not the homer threat that a healthy Spiller would be but he would immediately improve the Jets passing attack as an option of out the backfield and would seem to be a safer choice than Spiller.
Neither Spiller or Vereen is likely to command big money and with the Jets having so much money to spend this offseason they could easily afford to be the highest bidder on either of these two backs and not have it prevent them from signing any other free agents.
Who would you rather have Jets fans? Spiller or Vereen? Or would you rather one of the other free agents or draft a back or two?