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 best value?
There could be some big names on the move this offseason and some players made big moves this year that should earn them a big payday. Two of those are Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake:
Henry was drafted in 2016 after coming off a great year with the Crimson Tide. He had a great year and the expectation was that he could come into the NFL and be a workhorse back that could carry a team. He never really got a chance to put that to the test until this season. He only started two games in his first two seasons while sharing the backfield with DeMarco Murray. Last year he was able to start 12 games, but he was sharing the backfield again with the Titans new acquisition Dion Lewis. Lewis had moved from New England and was paid very well for his free agency move. Finally, this year the Titans gave Henry his chance to take the bulk of the work carrying the ball and he did not disappoint. He was the rushing leader for the year with 1540 yards and he was able to find the endzone 16 times. HE had a huge year and the best news for him was that it was in a contract year. So now he will have lots of suitors in free agency that will try and pick him up for the 2020 season.
The Bills have nearly 83 million dollars in cap space this offseason so they can be aggressive in going after any player that they think will help take them to the next level. Henry will probably be looking to make between 13-15 million dollars a year so the Bills would be able to pay him. Henry on the Bills would be a nightmare for defenses in 2020 and forward. The Bills already had a good rushing attack this year with Gore and their rookie Singletary. The Bills could move on from Gore to Henry easily. Henry would have one of the best rushing offensive lines in front of him, a dynamic QB that keeps defenses honest on runs, and deep threats in the passing game. Henry would also help keep Allen from rushing too many times which would be optimal for the Bills in the long term. The Bills also would have them both for the long term while Allen is still on his rookie deal, meaning that they could have the offense abusing teams for the near future while making consistent pushes into the playoffs. This could be an ideal situation for both sides.
The Patriots are known for making smart business moves to keep their salary costs down each year, especially with offensive skill players. The Patriots have just over 44 million dollars in cap space so they could make this move to get Henry if they wanted to. Michel started the year very slow and although he was able to improve toward the end of the season it didn’t appear that the Pats fully trusted him to be their primary back. If Henry came in and took the starting role over the Pats would easily be able to trust him as their primary ball carrier. He would also give them a big body in the backfield which would help them in short-yardage situations, which they struggled with this year. The Pats could also become more of a running team having Henry take the bulk of the work and wearing down the defense. If the Pats could get a bruising back that they could trust to be efficient this means that Brady would not have to sit in the pocket as much and not have to take as many hits. If they were able to get Henry they could keep Brady for longer by reducing the game reps he would have to take. This also wouldn’t be the first time the Pats went after an RB and signed them to a big contract so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see this move.
Henry was the leading rusher for the Titans and the league this year. The Titans scheme fits Henry perfectly and with the Titans having plenty of cap space they can pay him to stay there. This is probably the most likely scenario especially after the Titans made it to the AFC championship game this year. Having the whole off-season and training camp to get more reps with Tannehill and getting the new pieces into the team would mean that the Titans should be set up for another deep playoff run as long as they can keep their big back around heading into 2020.
Drake was not happy in Miami after having to share the workload on a bad team for multiple seasons. He was finally able to get the trade he wanted and moved to Arizona before the season was over. The Cardinals were ailing at RB and Drake started the first game he was eligible for. He had a huge game and showed that he can be a playmaker and a top tier talent in that offense. Drake finished the season strong and made a good case for him to get paid in free agency.
The Cardinals have a lot of building to do to become a consistent and successful team. With the first-year coach and QB having worked some of the kinks out during the year it will be interesting to see how they look in year 2. Drake could be a big piece of their success going forward. He showed that the system would work with his skill set and that he can make big plays to keep the pressure off Murray. The Cardinals already have a top tier back in Johnson, but he has been fighting injuries the past couple of seasons and even after he was healthy this year he was seeing the field less and less. Johnson does not seem to fit into the Cardinals plans going forward. There have been some reports that the Cardinals make even take the hit and release him instead of bringing him back for 2020. If the Cardinals make either of these moves it would be a clear path for Drake to be their standout star in Arizona. It would be exciting to see what this team can do offensively with Drake as the primary back from week1.
Another team that may be looking to move on from their starting running back in Atlanta. The Falcons had a rough year and Freeman struggled this year. Recently he has struggled with injuries and being able to stay in top shape to perform at the level the Falcons expected. The Falcons have been shopping him recently which means they would be open to bringing in some experience. Drake would fit into this mold for them. The Falcons would need at least one more back to be comfortable heading into 2020. With some young guys on the roster already they could use another back with a few years under his belt. Drake could also fit into the Falcons scheme quite well. He has a versatile skill set that Quinn would be able to use with his other offensive weapons to create lots of space and points. Drake in Atlanta could be an exciting show in 2020.