The Houston Texans have cut running back Arian Fostesaving the team $6.625 million on the salary cap. Foster had been a dominant runner for the Texans since emerging on the scene as a undrafted free agent, but was also overused early in his career and struggled with injuries. Last season he tore his Achilles and missed 12 games. All told Foster missed 23 games in the last three years but in his healthiest season ran for nearly 1300 yards over just 13 games.
With Foster’s contract now off the books the high end of the running back market continues to shrink. Marshawn Lynch has announced his retirement and Matt Forte is a free agent in line for a $4 million contract. That leaves Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy, and Jonathan Stewart as the only players earning over $7 million a year. There is a reasonable chance that all four will be released after the 2016 season.
Murray, who in some ways was expected to be the savior of the running back salary, fell flat on his face in Philadelphia. Lynch was hurt most of the year in Seattle and you had injuries to Foster and Jamaal Charles as well. It just reinforced the concept that is running through the NFL that the running back is a position you can’t invest in, which is why the majority of players make under $5 million a year.
That makes this a very important year for free agent running backs. Doug Martin is coming off a 1,400 yard season and you don’t get many players better than that coming into free agency. Lamar Miller is a competent 1,000 yard runner as well. The younger players at the position really need these players to keep the market healthy until someone like Todd Gurley can reset the market in a few years provided he stays healthy.