2019 Free Agency Preview: Running Backs

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With free agency set to begin in mid-March, Redskins.com previews the 2019 NFL free agent class position-by-position. Today's focus starts with the running backs.

For the Redskins, this is a position group that looks to be a strong one in 2019. The Redskins return the versatile, pass-catching Chris Thompson, as well as Samaje Perine. Last year's second-round draft pick Derrius Guice is recovering after missing his entire rookie season due to an ACL injury, and should be healthy for training camp.

The Redskins will have a few of their running backs from 2018 become free agents this offseason, most notably the veteran Adrian Peterson. In his lone season with the Redskins in 2018, Peterson ran for over 1,000 yards, becoming the oldest player in the NFL to do so since Redskins' running back John Riggins in 1984. Byron Marshall and Rob Kelley are also set to become restricted free agents.

Here are the top five free agents at the position, along with a full list below.

Le’Veon Bell

After sitting out the entire 2018 season, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will finally hit free agency. Bell, the three-time Pro-Bowler, sat out the entirety of the season due to contractual differences between himself and the Steelers.

Prior to sitting out all of last season, Bell was regarded as one of, if not the, best running backs in the entire NFL. In 2017, Bell had 321 carries for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns. He also caught 85 passes for 655 yards and two touchdowns that season.

In his two other Pro Bowl seasons, Bell combined for 551 rushes for 2,629 yards and 15 TDs, while catching 158 passes for 1,470 yards and five touchdowns. Throughout his five years of playing in the NFL, Bell has a career total of 5,336 rushing yards on 4.3 yards per carry, 35 rushing touchdowns and 312 receptions for 2,660 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns.

Take a look at some of the top free agent running backs of the NFL this offseason.

Jay Ajayi

Throughout his four-year career, Jay Ajayi has only had one season of stability. He’s endured being the backup running back, being traded midseason, and having a season-ending knee injury. In Ajayi’s lone season of stability, he was selected to the Pro Bowl.

In 2015, Ajayi’s second season, he took over as the starting running back for the Miami Dolphins. In that season, Ajayi ran the ball 260 times for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns. He also showed some versatility outside of the run game, as he caught 27 passes for 151 yards.

In Ajayi’s three other seasons, he was never able to establish himself. In Ajayi’s rookie season, he was the backup to Lamar Miller and was only able to get 49 total carries. In 2017, Ajayi was traded midseason to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. While with the Eagles, Ajayi split time with Legarrette Blount, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood. This past season, still with the Eagles, Ajayi tore his ACL in just the fourth game of the year.

Mark Ingram

After a remarkable Heisman-winning collegiate career, Mark Ingram has slowly carved out a very impressive NFL career for himself. The 2011 first-round draft pick has spent all eight years of his NFL career with the New Orleans Saints, where he has made two Pro-Bowl appearances.

This past season, Ingram missed the first four games due to a PED suspension. When he came back, he put up great stats while splitting time with Alvin Kamara. In 12 games, Ingram had 138 carries for 645 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught 21 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown.

In Ingram’s seven other seasons, he has combined for 1,183 rushing attempts which has got him 5,362 yards and 44 touchdowns. He has also caught 207 passes for 1,428 yards and four touchdowns over that span. Ingram’s two Pro-Bowl appearances came in the 2014 and 2017 seasons.

Tevin Coleman

In 2015, the Atlanta Falcons selected Tevin Coleman in the third round of the NFL Draft. By picking Coleman, the Falcons got one of the best backup running backs in the NFL. If Coleman was on a different team, he probably would have wound up being the starting running back.

Coleman was able to claim the starting spot for the Falcons this past year, as starter Devonta Freeman only played in two games due to injury. Coleman started the other 14 games for the Falcons, picking up 800 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 167 carries. Coleman also caught 32 passes for 276 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.

In Coleman’s first three seasons, he had 1,540 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns on 361 rush attempts. He also showed his ability outside of the backfield, picking up 734 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 60 receptions.

Spencer Ware

Spencer Ware has overcome a lot of hardships to make himself a starting running back in the NFL. He entered the league as a sixth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks. With Seattle, Ware would only last one season, in which he would get three rushing attempts.

Following his rookie year, Ware was released by the Seahawks and went the entire 2014 season without a team. In December 2014, he signed a futures contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. In the 2015 season, Ware acted as the backup running back to Jamaal Charles. As a result, he got limited playing time. In 2015, Ware became the full-time starter for the Chiefs, getting 921 yards and three touchdowns on 4.3 yards per carry.

In the 2016 preseason, Ware suffered a season-ending injury. Ware would not become the Chiefs starter again until midway through the 2018 season after Kareem Hunt was released. This past season, Ware had 51 rushes for 246 yards and two touchdowns.

Other notable free agent running backs: Adrian Peterson, C.J. Anderson, Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch, Latavius Murray, Alex Collins, T.J. Yeldon, Peyton Barber

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