Free Agency - Aaron Jones

2021 NFL Free Agents Running Backs

In the next of our series looking at the 2021 NFL Free Agents Running Backs. Today we are going to focus on the Running Back position. Running Back is the most important position in fantasy. However, Free Agency is often not a successful hunting ground for NFL teams.

 

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Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

Age: 26

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Aaron Jones is the shining star of the 2021 NFL Free Agents Running Backs. Coming off back to back top five Running Back finishes. Jones combines elite TD efficiency with solid passing-game usage. It also helps to be on one of the top offences in the league. Jones is a fascinating case this offseason, with a poor recent track record of free agent Running Backs. Will a team splash the cash and acquire him or not?

Contract Situation

Jones is an unrestricted free agent, but what makes his situation interesting is that he is joined in free agency with his backfield teammate Jamaal Williams. It is highly unlikely the Packers re-sign both of them. Particularly after they draft AJ Dillon in the 2nd round this last offseason.

The Packers have set it up very well as they can play the two free agents off against each other. Potentially bring one back on a below-market deal. With the way the Packers traditionally approach these situations, I can’t see Jones returning if money is his main driver.

Landing spots if he leaves

If he does leave there could be a few strong potential landing spots. The Miami Dolphins have been linked quite heavily. They’re built to win now and have ample cap space to acquire an elite Running Back. Another team that hasn’t been mentioned that makes sense would be the New York Jets. New Offensive Co-Ordinator Mike LaFleur will be running a similar offence to that his brother ran in Green Bay. The Jets have bucketsful of cap space and a screaming hole at Running Back.

So should you be buying or selling Jones? The answer is purely dependant on cost and team situation. I would only ever be considering Jones if I was a contender. Realistically he has 2 years of elite fantasy production left so he’s not going to help you if you’re rebuilding. If you’re buying I’m willing to spend the 1.07 and later in the 2021 draft (Superflex). If you’re being offered a top-six pick in this year’s draft for Jones I’m taking that regardless of the situation.

 

Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals

Age: 26

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Coming into the year I was very excited about Drake. He finished the 2019 season on a tear and I was very hopeful that would continue in 2020. Sadly that wasn’t the case. Drake struggled and looked a shadow of his former self. PFF highlighted this as Drake finished 22nd out of 23 backs (min 150 att) on elusive rating. Drake did finish the season as the Running Back 16 however. But this is hugely buoyed by the fact that he played 15 games. In points per game, Drake was actually outside the top 24.

Heading into free agency it is tough to see Drake being retained by the Cardinals and it is certainly tough to see any landing spot where he is anything more than a timeshare back. So valuing Drake as anything more than a Running Back four or five who could help you out as a flex play in bye weeks would be a mistake. Value-wise If I can get any 2nd round pick this year I am absolutely taking that and running as far away as I can before the owner realises what they’re paying for.

 

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

Age: 26

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Chris Carson has never been valued correctly by the fantasy community as a seventh round pick sharing a backfield with a former 1st round pick. Carson is consistently undervalued and a bargain at his relative ADP. However, as we head into free agency that could be coming to an end.

There is a theme with these 2021 Free Agent Running Backs that there aren’t many landing spots and they’re likely to struggle to find a stand-alone bell-cow role. Carsons best chance at seeing a significant workload may be to return to Seattle. However, with only $4m in cap space currently projected the Seahawks may play hardball. From a fantasy perspective, Carson would be a mid-Running Back two if he remains in Seattle and may struggle to return anything greater if he lands elsewhere.

Carson’s current price is around a late 1st. To me, that is an incredibly high price for someone who is at best a Running Back two and at worst a borderline flex play who could be out of the league in a year or two. I would be happy accepting a mid 2nd for Carson right now but the window will be shrinking and you may have to act very fast.

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

Age: 25

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Having already talked about James Conner a couple of times this season I won’t go into too much detail. To be honest I could copy and paste everything from the Chris Carson section into here. Conner is likely to struggle to command a feature back role on the open market and his best opportunity to stay fantasy relevant would be to stay in Pittsburgh. That would likely have to come with a home town discount as the Steelers aren’t flush with cap space.

Conner’s price is around a mid 2nd and I’m happy to take literally any 2nd round pick to shift him right now. If he resigns in Pittsburgh he could have some flex appeal next year but with the steelers drafting Running Back’s in consecutive drafts its beginning to feel like his time in Pittsburgh is running out.

 

Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons

Age: 26

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

An incredible fall from grace from the once highest valued asset in fantasy football. Gurley’s homecoming in Atlanta got off to a strong, all be it TD reliant, start. However, it quickly headed downhill with Atalanta turning to Brian Hill and Io Smith by the end of the season.

It is tough to say this but I do wonder if Gurley could be done. He is known to have chronic knee issues. He underperformed on a bad Atlanta team and I can’t see a team paying him more than a couple of million to be a 2nd or 3rd option. This is buoyed by the fact there are a number of 2021 free agents that are fighting for the same spots. This seems outrageous given his career to date and the fact he’s only 26 but Gurley’s days as a fantasy-relevant option are gone. In leagues, you can’t give Gurley away currently and I’d be surprised if you could get anything more than a 3rd for him at the moment.

 

Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Age: 26 

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

After being released from Jacksonville the market for the former fourth overall pick was almost not existent resulting in Forunette settling for a one year $2m deal with Tampa. Heading into 2021 Fournette has shown that he can be a useful back both in the run and pass game. However, the question that remains, has he rehabilitated his image enough that teams will be willing to take the chance on having him in their locker room.

Given the number of 2021 NFL Free Agents Running Backs on the market, I think Fournette will likely be in another split backfield and be nothing more than a potential injury replacement and flex play. It would probably only take a 2nd round pick to tempt the owner to part with Fournette and that’s just more than I’m comfortable paying. If the price drops to a 2021 3rd then I’d consider buying as I do think there is more left in the tank with Fournette and he could be a useful bench piece if he gets the opportunity.

 

This is the final in our free agency series and the @5yarddynasty team will now switch to focusing more on the incoming rookies to help get you ready for your 2021 rookie drafts. Make sure you’re following along with the team on Twitter @5yarddynasty or with me personally @DynastyIsland.

 

 

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