2023 Free Agency Preview: Running Backs


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2023 Free Agency Preview: Running Backs

The official start to the 2023 NFL season is quickly approaching with the league year and free agency opening at 4 p.m. on March 15. Teams will begin signing free agents and any trades agreed to prior to the new league year will become official starting on that date.

There are a couple of other key dates to remember before the league year officially kicks off. Teams have to designate franchise players by March 7. The NFL also has a legal negotiating window from March 13-15, when teams can start contacting and negotiating with the agents of unrestricted free agents. We’ll hear of some deals breaking during that window, even though they can’t become official.

With that said, it’s time to start breaking down the 2023 free agency class, which includes Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard at the running back position. Be sure to follow Fantasy Points throughout free agency for in-depth breakdowns of every major (and minor) move. We’ll be tracking every off-season transaction from a fantasy perspective through our “Off-season Tracker” articles and Graham Barfield’s “Fantasy Fallout” pieces.

We’ll also be constantly updating our Best Ball rankings if you’re looking to get an early start to draft season with our friends over at Underdog Fantasy (Promo code: FANTASYPTS). New signups to Underdog get both a deposit match of up to $100 and a Fantasy Points Standard subscription for just $5.

NOTE: Players are loosely ranked based on talent, age, plus previous and expected future fantasy relevance. Free Agency information courtesy of OverTheCap.com.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Note: An unrestricted free agent is a player with four or more accrued seasons and an expired contract who is free to negotiate and sign with any team.

Fantasy Relevant

Leonard Fournette (TB, 28) — Tampa Bay’s attempt at one last Super Bowl run went up in flames, which included the Buccaneers inking Fournette to a three-year, $21 million after Tom Brady came out of his 40-day retirement. His offensive line fell apart in front of him and he faced increased competition from Rachaad White all while playing through an apparent foot injury, which he revealed on Twitter. Fournette posted 189/668/3 rushing (3.5 YPC, 51.9% carry share) and 73/523/3 receiving (7.2 YPR) on targets (12.4% share) to finish as the RB15 with 14.2 FPG. He played on 60% of the snaps and ran 418 routes (26.1 per game) in 16 contests, missing a game for a hip pointer injury. Fournette will most be remembered for his 448 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns during Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl LV title run, which earned him the nickname “Playoff Lenny.” He backed up his postseason performance with a career-best 4.5 YPC in 2021, which plummeted by a full yard last season with the Buccaneers finishing dead last in rushing YPG (75.6) and YPC (3.4). Fournette has been a lead back for the vast majority of his career since the Jaguars selected him fourth overall in 2017, but he may have to settle for a top backup role with a title contender as he enters the back half of his career.

Kareem Hunt (Cle, 28) — Hunt lost major steam in the final season of his two-year deal with the Browns, and he’ll be stuck taking a major pay cut this year after earning a career-high $6.3 million in 2022. He averaged a miserable 4.8 yards per touch after never previously falling below 6.0 YPT, all while Nick Chubb continued to be one of the league’s most dominant runners with his fifth consecutive season averaging 5.0+ YPC to open his career. Hunt posted 123/468/3 rushing (3.8 YPC, 23.2% carry share) and 35/210/1 receiving (6.0 YPR) on 44 targets (8.9% share) to average 7.5 FPG. He played on 42% of the snaps and ran 254 routes (14.9 per game) in 17 contests. Hunt still has a desirable three-down skill set but he’ll be stuck looking for work as a top backup rather than as a starter after his disastrous 2022. He at least benefited from playing second fiddle behind Chubb with just 574 touches over his four seasons with the Browns. Hunt will be out to prove that his career isn’t done just yet, but he could be stuck signing a one-year deal in hopes of having a late-career resurgence in his next destination.

Jerick McKinnon (KC, 31) — McKinnon entered training camp as a bit of an afterthought behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ronald Jones, Isiah Pacheco, and even Derrick Gore. He once again emerged as a pivotal part of Andy Reid’s backfield as a receiver and personal protector for Patrick Mahomes for the second straight season. It certainly helped that CEH continued to underperform as a former first-round pick, and RoJo predictably continued to stink at football. McKinnon posted 72/291/1 rushing (4.0 YPC, 17.5% carry share) and 56/512/9 receiving (9.1 YPR) on 9.1 targets (11.6% share) to finish as the RB26 with 11.6 FPG. He played on 47% of the snaps and ran 343 routes (20.2 per game) in 17 contests. McKinnon entered the postseason with touchdowns in six straight games and nine total scores in that span. He did cede more touches to Pacheco in the postseason, but he still remained Reid’s top passing back. McKinnon has inked one-year deals with the Chiefs in back-to-back off-seasons, and there’s no reason to think the two sides won’t do it again in 2023.

Other UFAs

Ezekiel Elliott (Dal, 28)

J.D. McKissic (Was, 30)

Kenyan Drake (Bal, 29)

Latavius Murray (Den, 33)

Dontrell Hilliard (Ten, 28)

Justin Jackson (Det, 27)

Darrel Williams (Ari, 28)

Benny Snell (Pit, 25)

Marlon Mack (Den, 27)

Mark Ingram (NO, 33)

Ameer Abdullah (LV, 29)

Jonathan Williams (Was, 29)

Royce Freeman (Hou, 27)

Malcolm Brown (LAR, 30)

Rex Burkhead (Hou, 33)

Giovani Bernard (TB, 31)

David Johnson (NO, 31)

Restricted Free Agents

Note: A restricted free agent is a player with three accrued seasons and an expired contract. RFAs are free to negotiate and sign with any team, but their original team can offer them one of various qualifying offers ("tenders") that come with the right of first refusal and/or draft-pick compensation. If the tender is withdrawn by a team, the RFA becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Jarett Patterson (Was, 23)

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at a 60% clip or better in each of the last two seasons and he owned the last undefeated team out of 3000 entries in Scott Fish Bowl 12.