2016 NFL Free Agency: Running Back Overview

Nearly halfway through the 2015 season, we are now at the point where we can start looking forward to free agency in 2016 based on this year’s current performances. This week we will take a brief look at the players who may project to be the top unrestricted free agents this season at the running back position and estimate some potential ranges for a new contract in 2016.

Doug Martin, Buccaneers

Martin has come from nowhere to produce big this season for the Buccaneers. Martin is averaging over 90 yards a game and is on pace for over 1,400 yards this year. Martin’s career arc is relatively unique. He exploded onto the scene as a rookie in 2012, rushing for 1,454 yards and being a threat in the passing game. He was poor in 2013 before an injury ended his season and landed in the doghouse in 2014 while seemingly dealing with more bumps and bruises. To come back to the 1,400 yard level after that is not that normal. Continue reading 2016 NFL Free Agency: Running Back Overview »

NFL Stock Down: Week 6

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Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have hurt their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that did not live up to the expectations that his contract sets for the player.

Stock Down

Jason Pierre-Paul– In a chance to be showcased in a big national game, Pierre-Paul continued to disappoint. JPP registered no sacks and outside of a trip up of Nick Foles on a run really made no impact at all. It’s hard to believe how far his star has fallen since he looked like the next big thing a few years ago.

Danny Amendola– Somehow in a game where the Patriots threw the ball 37 times to 10 different receivers, Amendola did not get even one look. The Amendola-Welker switch will probably go down as one of the worst decisions of all time, a decision the Patriots will try to forget when they cut Amendola as soon as the season ends.

Mike Williams– In the biggest game of the season for the Buffalo Bills, Williams somehow found himself deactivated for the game. The Bills traded for Williams in the offseason hoping that he would provide, for one year, a low cost threat to the passing game. Williams, who was also given up on by the Buccaneers, needs to be on the field to try to get himself a job next season.

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New Contract Disappointment Of The Week

Chris Johnson– Johnson carried the ball just three times for the Jets on Sunday, looking like an afterthought in the struggling offense. The Jets, who paid Johnson $4 million this offseason, look to have given up on integrating the former star into the offense.  This may be the last regular season stop of Johnson’s career.

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NFL Stock Down: Week 5

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Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have hurt their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that did not live up to the expectations that his contract sets for the player.

Stock Down

Torrey Smith– Everyone expected a big year from Smith and it’s just not there. Smith had chances and didn’t make the most of them, dropped passes and, at least in one case, did not seem to give the max effort expected of a star player. After the game Smith admitted that this is a trying time for himbut he needs a major rebound over the next 11 games to get the contract he hoped for.

Nick Mangold– Watching every snap of the Jets game was torture for me and Mangold, who is supposed to be the leader of the offensive line, looked terrible. The Jets offensive line was overwhelmed and I don think I’ve ever seen Mangold get penalized and give up a sack on the same play. Mangold carries a $10 million plus cap figure in 2015, making this essentially a contract year for him.

Alex Henery– I’m not sure why no Lions can kick this year but Henery was signed to a one year contract a few weeks ago and will likely be released by the time you read this. This was not just costing the Lions a game by missing one critical kick but multiple ones all game.

New Contract Disappointment Of The Week

Chris Johnson– Johnson was brought in by the Jets to be the speedy compliment to their rushing game and a deadly force in their passing game. Right now he looks stuck in the mud and disinterested in what is a fading season. Johnson’s fumble was the final nail in the Jets coffin on Sunday.

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CJ-NO-WAY: Sizing up Chris Johnson’s eventual arrival on the 2014 RB market

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Titans RB Chris Johnson is soon to be FormerTitans RB Chris Johnson. He answered “no way” when asked if he’d take a pay cut this off-season, and Tennessee will almost surely cut CJ loose.

After Sunday, Johnson will end up having played 3 years and having collected $31 million of the 6 year/ $56 million extension he signed in September of 2011.

What does this mean for Johnson’s future? Once released, he should immediately become the most desirable back in a weak 2014 UFA RB market, which includes an aging MJD, the talented yet injury-prone Darren McFadden, the Giants’ Andre Brown and the Colts’ Donald Brown.

With 950 rushing yards, Johnson needs 50 yards in Sunday’s finale to reach the 1,000-yard mark for his 6th straight season.  If Johnson gets his usual workload, he should reach this feat.  Yet his usual workload (he’s averaging 16.8 carries/game this season) will put him at 269 carries for the year—an average of 288 carries per year in his 6 years as a Titan.  While he’ll still be 28 on next opening day, that’s a lot of tread on his tires.

Reggie Bush, the crop of last year’s free agent RB class, signed a 4 year/$16 million deal with $5 million in guarantees.  While Bush had played one more season then CJ, he had significantly less usage—Bush averaged 138 carries per year over his 7 year span prior to hitting free agency.

It’d make sense if Johnson received a contract in the same range as Bush’s deal. The 2014 cap is preliminary expected to be $126.3 million, which should give teams a little more spending room.  However, even with this extra spending money, I’d be surprised to see any team give much more than $5 million guaranteed to a running back that’s been used so heavily and is primed to enter his decline phase sooner rather than later.

Possible destinations:

Cleveland: The early favorite, the Brown’s will have a ton of cap space and RB is one of their biggest needs.

Oakland: Their cap situation has been restored from the Al Davis days. McFadden will likely depart. I have a feeling GM Reggie McKenzie will spend money in other areas, though, and have faith that Rashad Jennings will be able to handle primary back duties.

Jets: The Jets will also have some money to spend, and CJ would fit in nicely next to Chris Ivory. However, Gang Green may have more pressing needs to fill.

Miami: They lacked playmaking from the RB position after letting Bush leave in FA.  2014 is the last year of Daniel Thomas’ rookie deal…

 
Andrew Cohen
@ajcohen03
ajcohen3@gmail.com

Stock Up: Week 9

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Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have helped their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that exceeded all expectations and provided exceptional value to his team.

Stock Up

Chris Johnson– For one week CJ2K seemed to turn back the clock and look like the back everyone thought he would be when the Titans signed him to the $13.49 million dollar contract. Johnson ran for 150 yards and two scores and was actually a player that could be relied on for more than one big run. Johnson still has a lot of work cut out for him if he wants to stick in Tennessee next year- the team will save $4 million in cap room and $8 million in cash by releasing him– but he at least took one step to keeping his contract in place in 2014.

Riley Cooper– The Eagles receiver became a very controversial figure following some unfortunate remarks he made at a concert, but on the field he has had a career year in his walk season. Hes made the most out of the opportunity that was created by the injury to Jeremy Maclin and has more than doubles his per game output from last season. Riley’s 139 yard game was his second 120 plus yard game in the last 4 and he is now averaging 90 yards per game over that stretch. His improved stats have come directly as a result of Mike Vick being injured and if he continues to be a major target for the younger QB’s the Eagles will be rushing to keep him next season.

Jerricho Cotchery– Cotchery had a 3 TD game on Sunday and his second 90 plus yard game on the year. While the Steelers lost again he is on pace for his best season since 2007 and could get an opportunity to come back to Pittsburgh next year at a raise from his current $1.5 million a year annual contract. While Cotchery will by no means be an expensive player there are many people who likely thought he was finished when the Jets gave up on him in 2011 and the Steelers signed him for the minimum to compete for a job. With the Steelers salary cap problems likely leading to a departure for Emmanuel Sanders, Cotchery has a chance to lock in some good playing time in 2014.

New Contract Player Of The Week

Chris Ivory– There were a number of players who deserved consideration for this, but Ivory dominated his old team and was the offensive catalyst for the Jets in their upset win over the Saints. Ivory ran for 139 yards on 18 carries in a game where the Jets’ QB, Geno Smith, only attempted 19 passes and gained just 115 yards. Ivory had been a bit of a bust for the Jets since he came over in a trade. He’s battled injuries, something he has been saddled with his whole career, and been mediocre when he has been on the field, but on Sunday he was everything the Jets could have hope for.

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Stock Down: Week 6

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Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have hurt their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that did not live up to the expectations that his contract sets for the player.

Stock Down

Antonio Cromartie– In 2012 Cromartie was arguably the best player on the Jets defense often drawing the most difficult assignment and shutting him down. 2013 has been a completely different story. Cromartie has been ineffective and often is spending a good deal of time playing catch up anytime someone puts a move on him at the start of a play. While he was nursing a knee injury yesterday he has been giving up too many big plays on the season and yesterday was no exception as he was toasted by Emmanuel Sanders of the Steelers on a 55 yard touchdown pass. Cromartie is set to earn $9.5 million next season and with a cap charge close to $15 million dollars this is essentially a free agent season for the cornerback. Give the soft state of the CB market and general worries about happens when Cromartie gets older and begins to lose some of that explosiveness, this is as bad a time as any for this kind of season.

Chris Johnson–  Johnson spent a long time trying to get an extension with the Titans following his explosion in 2009 where he rushed for 2000 yards. Finally in 2011 the Titans caved and signed him to an absurd contract making nearly $13.5 million a year with $30 million in guarantees. Johnson, unlike Adrian Peterson, was never able to recapture that real special season and has been little more than one of many overpaid and underperforming running backs. Yesterday Johnson was nearly worthless against the Seahawks rushing for just 33 yards on 12 carries. What’s even scarier is that this was his best game in 3 weeks. His 3 week total is now just 71 rushing yards on 37 carries for an average of 1.9. Johnson has a $10 million dollar cap figure and will earn $8 million in 2014. With just $6 million in dead money he’ll likely be cut and will probably not make $8 million over the span of the entire contract he signs with someone next season.

Ben Tate– Tate had tremendous expectations going into the season and early in the year there seemed to be a chance that he was going to get more work as he looked explosive at times. At some point a team would be convinced that he could be a featured back and he would get his salary in the $5 million a year range. But a few fumbles later and a resurgent set of performances by starter Arian Foster has seen Tate maintain a minimal workload. Tate only saw action on 20 snaps and it seems as if most of them came in mop up time when the game was out of reach.  On the second to last drive he did score a touchdown and pick up a 4th down conversion but that came after being stuffed three times in short yardage situations. All in all he ended up with 10 carries for 12 yards. He needs to get more meaningful opportunities and do better in the opportunities provided to try to get that contract he wants from someone next season.

New Contract Disappointment Of The Week

Greg Jennings– The Vikings paid Jennings big money to help revive their struggling passing attack but for the most part he has just become another limited use piece in the Minnesota offense. Jennings caught 6 passes on Sunday for just 34 yards. He is on pace to have his worst statistical non-injury plagued year since his rookie season. Despite earning $9 million a season he ranks 3rd on the team in both receptions and yards. It’s not all his fault but he’s a perfect example as to why in 90% of the cases you need to have some type of QB in place before spending big money on a wide receiver. The Ponder/Cassel tandem was not that type of QB.

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