1) Brandon Jacobs/New York Giants
Possible Suitors: Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, New York Giants
Should the Bengals ultimately pass on re-signing Cedric Benson, they'll need a solid power runner to handle the starting job and Jacobs fits that bill well.
Denver had seven backs on injured reserve in 2008 and none of them are seen as the featured back for 2009.
The Giants want Jacobs back and it seems like he wants to be back, but it will be costly. A league source told Scout.com that the team only has about $7-$8 million currently in projected salary cap space and the franchise tag number for running backs is $6.621 million. It appears the only way they'll be able to bring back Jacobs is to sign him to a long-term deal with a small cap number for 2009.
Most Likely Destination: New York Giants
In the end, look for the team to find a way to bring back Jacobs into the fold for a while longer. He simply is way too important to their power running game.
2) Derrick Ward/New York Giants
Possible Suitors: Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants
Cincinnati could have an opening for a starter should they not re-sign Cedric Benson. Ward offers terrific versatility, but because he turns 29 in late August, he may be only looking at a short-term deal.
Houston badly is looking for a back to complement Steve Slaton. Ward makes a lot of sense as a scheme fit and could help form a nice 1-2 punch with the younger back.
New Orleans may be looking for a power back such as Ward if they decide to decline to pick up veteran Deuce McAllister's $2 million roster bonus which is believed to be due around the start of free agency.
The only way Ward would return to the Giants, it seems, is if the can't find a better role elsewhere. And with the team high on Ahmad Bradshaw, Ward's role could actually decrease if he re-signed with the team.
Most Likely Destination: Houston Texans or New Orleans Saints
3) Cedric Benson/Cincinnati Bengals
Possible Suitors: Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints
Benson, a former high first-round pick of the Chicago Bears, was essentially out of the league after Chicago waived him last June. Cincinnati signed him late in September, more or less to take a look at him before the season ended. Benson wound up starting 10 games and set career highs in rushing yardage and receptions. A team source told Scout.com that Cincinnati would like to re-sign him to be their starter.
New Orleans worked Benson out prior to his signing with Cincinnati so they may still have interest in him. Should Deuce McAllister not be back with New Orleans, their interest level could increase in Benson. They'll be looking for a power back that could handle 10-12 carries a game.
Most Likely Destination: Cincinnati Bengals. The coaches seemed happy with his progress and he stayed out of trouble so Benson could be back in a Bengal uniform soon.
4) Darren Sproles/San Diego Chargers
Possible Suitors: Detroit Lions, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks
Detroit badly needs speed at the running back position and Sproles would provide that. Plus, he could help on kickoff returns.
San Diego would love to have Sproles back in the fold, but they'll be looking to find LaDainian Tomlinson's eventual replacement. So he's not likely to get big money from them to re-sign.
Seattle really needs to add speed to their lineup especially since veteran Maurice Morris may not be re-signed.
Most Likely Destination: Up in the air. More teams could be interested as free agency gets closer since he's the fastest back projected to be available. What makes Sproles also an attractive option is that he could provide a variety of roles.
Where Will They End Up? (Running Backs)
1) Brandon Jacobs/New York Giants