We’re officially into the off-season, with the new League Year less than a month away. Soon enough, we’ll get the draft and mini camps. But before all that, we get free agency. As we careen toward the new league year, I’m looking at five key free agents at QB, RB, WR, and TE. Today, I’m continuing with five RB free agents to watch.
About: Barkley was taken second overall in 2018, a player expected to be a generational player. We saw that in his rookie year, and he had a decent sophomore season, but injuries took a toll. Barkley was limited to 15 games and just over 600 yards in his third and fourth seasons combined. He bounced back big in the final year of his rookie contract in an improving offense under Brian Daboll. He rushed for 1,312 yards and ten touchdowns, catching 57 passes. It was his best season since his rookie year. Still, it’s a loaded free-agent class, and Barkley isn’t without injury concerns. Last season was the first time he’s appeared in 16 games since his rookie campaign. The Giants need a running back, and Barkley would like to be back. The Giants could use the Franchise Tag, but they might well need that for Daniel Jones. He remains a Top 10 dynasty running back option for the time being, but his landing spot is important.
Prediction: I think Barkley takes a more team-friendly deal to stay with the Giants for two to three more years.
About: No running back on this list did more to improve their stock heading into free agency than Jacobs. The year began with the Raiders declining Jacobs’ fifth-year option. He responded with a career year, rushing for a career-high 1,653 yards and 4.9 yards per carry in 17 games, tying a career-high with 12 rushing touchdowns and adding 53 receptions. That makes him perhaps the biggest name on the free agent market because of his production and relatively clean injury history. It’s possible the Raiders could use the Franchise Tag, but it feels like that relationship is fractured. I suspect Jacobs will hit the open market and open up a world of possibilities. Either way, he’s a Top 10 dynasty running back at the moment.
Prediction: The Buffalo Bills have needed a better option at running back for a while. I think they make a splashy move here and sign Jacobs.
About: Another running back from the class of 2019, Sanders was a Second-Round Pick that some thought could end up being the best of his class. Throughout his four years with the Eagles, he’s had flashes, but also a history of missing games. He did better in 2022, appearing in all 17 games and rushing for a career-high 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns. Now, he’s on the open market. Unlike the first two backs on this list, Sanders doesn’t figure to command a large contract. He fit the Eagles’ scheme well, but the question is whether the team wants to bring him back, featuring Kenneth Gainwell, or maybe grab another player.
Prediction: I think Sanders has something still in the tank and has RB2 potential for at least a couple more seasons. I also think he takes a team-friendly deal to remain with the Eagles.
About: Pollard has been explosive throughout his time in Dallas, but he really took off in 2022. He earned more of a total split with Ezekiel Elliott and had his first 1,000-yard season. He rushed for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns, catching 39 passes for 371 yards and three more touchdowns. That set him up to be an intriguing free agent, something that took a bit of a hit when he broke his leg in the playoff game with the 49ers. I still like Pollard as a player with an RB2 upside in Dynasty. The question is where he plays. He’s another Franchise Tag candidate, as the Cowboys’ offense was clearly better with Pollard in it.
Prediction: I think Pollard does get the Franchise Tag, and I suspect he plays on the tag in 2023.
About: Williams was a huge part of the Lions’ success in 2022. Though the team has a talented back in D’Andre Swift, who was also a high draft pick, it was Williams who was the hammer on offense. He rushed for a career-high 1,066 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was also a great veteran leader for the Lions, who finished 9-8 and agonizingly just missed the playoffs. The Lions are poised to take another step forward in 2023, but will Williams be a part of it? He’s more of an RB3 in dynasty, and I suspect he won’t get to 17 touchdowns again. But I still like his fit in Detroit alongside Swift and Jared Goff.
Prediction: I think Williams takes another two to three-year deal with the Lions, and likely has weekly flex value in 2023.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.