There are quite a few teams that will be looking for some help in the backfield during the off-season. Teams that are rebuilding or that will be looking to add depth at a vital position for success will get their first shot at free agents until the draft in April. How aggressive will teams be in pursuing the players that they want, and who is willing to wait around for the beat value?
When McCoy was let go by the Bills near the beginning of the 2019 season it was a surprise. He had been successful in Buffalo and was well-liked by the fans. Rumors swirled about where he would end up as anticipation grew. Then one of the “magical” scenarios happened and he went to Kansas City to play under Reid again. He was able to reunite with his old coach from Philadelphia. This seemed to be a match that would make a lot of sense for both sides, especially after Damien Williams struggled with injuries early in the season. McCoy was able to finally become part of a team that won a playoff game, but he only played 1 snap in the postseason. This was not the script that most people had in mind when he moved to the Chiefs and seemed to show that he could still be a productive back, but when he had 2 costly turnovers in 3 weeks. After those turnovers and Williams coming back and showing that he was healthy it was hard for the Chiefs to put McCoy out there. Although he was part of a Super Bowl winning team it was not the way he wanted to end his season, watching from the sidelines. The biggest question is where McCoy will end up in 2020.
There is a decent chance that McCoy has played his last game in uniform and will decide to retire. He is getting to be an older back, 31, and has lost a step the last few years. He also had turnover issues this year so it might be hard to find a team with the right fit, willing to take the risk on him. If he does end up retiring, I suspect that the Eagles will bring him back on a short term contract so that their all-time leading rusher, McCoy with 6792 Yards, can retire as an Eagle.
The Chiefs dealt with injuries at RB the last couple of years so they could use the depth in an RB that knows the system and has some experience in the league. The Chiefs could also use McCoy’s experience to help their young playmakers stay consistent and in developing the talent that they have.
The Dolphins need help at RB. They dealt with depth issues due to injury and suspension this year. The Dolphins need to work on their offensive line to help in both the running and passing games heading into 2020, so getting a free-agent deal with an experienced back might be a great option to help bring some maturity to the locker room. Brian Flores is also a coach that is trying to turn this team around and is another protégé from the Belichick coaching staff. The Pats were one of the teams that had shown interest in McCoy during his departure from Buffalo, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see this move.
After Lamar Miller went down for the Texans during the preseason with an ACL tear the Texans brought Hyde in from the Chiefs. He has moved around the league since entering 7 years ago and playing for 4 different teams in that stretch and being with 4 different teams in the last 2 seasons. In 2020 he had one of his best years since entering the league, playing in all 16 games during the season and breaking the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career. This is the type of season you want to have when you will be a free agent during the off-season.
The Texans were impressed with Hyde this year and how productive he was able to be in their offense. He seemed to fit Bill’s offensive plan very well and was able to be versatile. The Texans also have a lot of free-agent needs they need to fill this off-season, as well as keeping some of their free-agent players heading into 2020. They do not have very high draft capital in this year’s draft so the Texans and more specifically Bill O’Brien are going to have to be very strategic in the moves that they make, read more in-depth details about it here in @FF_Peacock‘s article. Lamar Miller is also going to be a free agent this off-season and his cost will be more than the Texans probably want to pay him, so that means they will need to keep their other RBs. The Texans are only going to be able to keep one of these guys on their roster, and I suspect that they will want the cheaper, healthier, and more productive player on their roster in 2020.
The Bucs have given Jones and Barber 2 years to try and take control of the backfield in Tampa and it looks like neither one of them is going to seize the opportunity. The Bucs will be changing their offense this off-season and they will need to make moves at RB. Hyde could be a great replacement in Tampa. He has a skill set that could fit very well in an Arians offense. If he ends up in Tampa he could easily take control at the top of the depth chart heading into 2020. This would be a great opportunity for him to be highly productive.
Howard was traded from the Bears to the Eagles last year after having a productive year in Chicago. Chicago had a pass catcher in Cohen and then they brought in their rookie Montgomery who improved as the season went on. Howard didn’t necessarily “fit” into the new offense Nagy wanted to run and they were going to get some draft stock back for him. Howard has been an efficient back since entering the league. He has primarily been used as a bigger back between the tackles but has shown that he also has good hands and can make plays in the passing game. Howard has a good skill set and he could be on the move again this offseason.
The Eagles went after Howard last year hoping to get good production from him. They also drafted Miles Sanders in the draft, and he went out and flashed his talent. Sanders had a great year for the Eagles and there has been a lot of talk about his usage heading into next year and where fantasy managers would want to draft him. Howard started the year for the Eagles as Sanders was getting up to NFL speed, but then Howard got a stinger and had to sit out 6 games. In that stretch, Sanders started to thrive and when Howard came back healthy, they shared the field. So, heading into free agency this year it will be interesting to see how the Eagles handle this backfield. One major factor that is going to play into Howard getting a new contract is going to be timing. When Howard was traded from the Bears there was some mystery about how much was sent to get him. Some reports were that the Eagles gave the Bears a 5th and a 6th round pick to get Howard, but when you look deep into the specifics of the trade the picture changes a bit. The way the trade was established was that the Bears got a 6th round pick for Howard, and then there were requirements set for the Bears to receive the 5th round pick that was reported on. To get the 5th round pick Howard with the Eagles would have to meet certain criteria as reported by Jimmy Kempski: One of the following would have to occur for the Bears to get the second pick: Howard would need to have 1,00 rushing yards, Howard had 50% or more of the Eagles rushing yards, If Howard made the Pro-Bowl, or if Howard was signed a new deal with the Eagles before 2020 free agency. Since Howard missed 6 games with his injury and Sanders showed his star potential he only had just over 500 yards rushing, accounted for less than 30% of the teams rushing, and was not selected to the Pro-Bowl. So the only way that the 5th round pick could be lost to the Bears at this point would be for the Eagles to sign him to a new deal before 2020 free agency officially begins in March. With how the season went for Howard with the Eagles there is no way there is going to be a deal made before this happens. This means that other teams are going to get a chance to make offers to Howard at the same time. There is a chance that he will not return to the Eagles but they will make him an offer to stay in Philadelphia. Before he went out with his injury he was outplaying Sanders. He was averaging 4.4 yards per attempt, was lighter on his frame, and was more elusive. The Eagles liked what they saw from him and having some experience in the backfield with Sanders could prove to be a very dangerous one-two punch.
The Lions will be looking to add some serious depth in the backfield this offseason. The Lions have a lot of capital to work with this off-season and they will be very aggressive in their search. They dealt with lots of injuries at RB this year and could use more experience that does not cost them a lot as they will need to focus on their defense primarily to improve as a team in 2020. Howard could be a good fit for the Lions. After his missed time this year, his price should not be as high as some of the other RBs in the free-agent market. Howard also used to play in the NFC North so he has experience playing against those teams. Gaining a player of his caliber could be a huge upgrade for the Lions, especially if Howard looks like he did at the start of the 2019 season. If he mixed in with Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough the Lions could have a very dangerous backfield in 2020.
The Patriots backfield was stocked up this year, but there were obvious areas that they were not successful in. Sure the Patriots already have Michel, Harris, Burkhead, White, and Bolden. The Pats dealt with injuries at RB this year and Harris was not ready to play in the Pats offense. It would be a long shot that the Patriots would make a move for Howard this off-season, but if Bill thought that Howard would be a difference maker he would make the moves necessary to get him. White and Burkhead are both entering the last year of their contracts so if Howard was brought in it would be a few years to make sure they had security at the position. The biggest reason the Pats would bring Howard in would be short yardage situations. The backs they had struggled in these positions most of the year, and was on display in their loss to the Titans in the playoffs. If Howard ended up in New England he could be an extremely productive back for the next few years.
Running Back Free Agency Predictions: LeSean McCoy, Carlos Hyde, & Jordan HowardTweet