NFL Free Agency Grades: Running Back Edition

To say the NFL Free Agency was a frenzy would be an understatement. One of the most active positions among all in free agency was the running back position. Players went from conference to conference, or even from division rival to another division rival. Now with all these moves being made and done with, the time has arrived to delve into these moves and see which ones stand above the rest. We'll also find out which teams made the wrong moves that will dampen any chances to be a good team. 

Five SQ writers were posed with different questions regarding moves that occurred at the running back position during free agency. They were also asked to grade teams that made acquisitions at the RB position. Without further ado, here's what they thought--


DeMarco Murray→ Eagles

Joshua Connelly: [A-] The Eagles basically turned LeSean McCoy and his contract into linebacker Kiko Alonso and DeMarco Murray. That’s not a bad move, although it’s understandable that Eagles fans may have a hard time coming to terms with the loss of McCoy, who was beloved in Philadelphia. Some thought that Murray leaving Dallas would lead to a drop in production because of the stellar offensive line he would be leaving behind, but the Eagles’ O-line actually received a higher grade in run blocking from Pro Football Focus. Murray’s contract includes $21 million in guaranteed money, which is high for a running back with his injury history, but if he stays healthy, the money will be put to good use. Whether all of Chip Kelly’s moves pay off next season is yet to be seen, but the run game shouldn’t feel much of a drop-off.

Bobby Decker: [A] This is definitely the best piece of evidence for the “trust Chip Kelly” camp. Murray is a spectacular back who chews up yardage, fits any offense like a glove, and opens up opportunities for other skill players. Plus, he provides an opportunity for Eagles fans to trade their McCoy jerseys for something other than a kelly green Sam Bradford one, which should lower rates of depression in Philly.

Credit: Getty Images

Bobby Eghbali: [A-] Despite losing LeSean McCoy to the Bills, the Eagles made a splash by adding ex-Cowboy DeMarco Murray. This is surely a grade-A move, as the Eagles didn’t lose much going from McCoy to Murray. With Murray, they get a downhill runner who will give them the 5-6 yards on first and second down to allow them to run their fast pace, quick throwing offense on 3rd down. Losing McCoy will hurt as he is the more explosive back between he and Murray, but the Eagles didn’t downgrade very much. 

Ray Habib: [A] The Eagles went from a top-5 running back to another top-5 running back. Murray fits more into the one-cut attack that Chip Kelly likes, and as fun as McCoy was to watch, fans won’t miss the occasional 10-yard-loss-run. Murray can provide big plays to an offense that is completely redesigned. If Chip paid him, Chip must have a plan for him. 

Peter Hess: [A] Based purely on the net outcome, Kiko Alonso and DeMarco Murray for LeSean McCoy is a steal for the Eagles. While McCoy was a better fit for Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense, Philadelphia seemed to shift away from using McCoy in the passing game, as he tallied just 28 receptions (on 37 targets) for 155 yards last season. Darren Sproles commanded the third-down back duties, making the Murray signing a greater win for the Eagles long-term as Murray can specialize on packing a powerful punch on first and second down. Why not take a stab at your division rivals as well?

LeSean McCoy (acquired)→ Bills

JC: [B] I’m a fan of LeSean McCoy, but I’m not sure I’m a fan of him in a Rex Ryan system. McCoy is hardly a ground-and-pound running back, and that’s the back of choice in a Rex Ryan offense. Without a solid quarterback under center, defenses will focus on McCoy and could very well shut down the Bills offense. One positive: McCoy should be consistent under center, which is something the team lacked with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.

BD: [B-] I like LeSean McCoy a lot, and I’m sure he will continue to be a valuable player, barring injury. In Buffalo, however, he’s going to have to be the focal point of the offense. With no QB to keep defenses honest, the Bills are gambling that McCoy has the ability to carry an offense to the playoffs (Sammy Watkins is a stud, but a stud catching throws from EJ Manuel or mediocre veteran QB X doesn’t carry an offense). Simply put, I don’t like that bet. 

BE: [A-] Firstly, this move caught everyone by surprise. There were no previous rumors about a deal happening between the two clubs and out of nowhere did this happen. The Bills, however, got exactly what they wanted: a reliable running back. McCoy will provide an instant boost over the inconsistency the Bills had for years behind Spiller and Jackson, and the effects from the loss of Alonso will remain to be seen, as he is coming off a torn ACL.

RH: [B+] The only reason this doesn’t earn an A is because the Bills gave up a potential defensive powerhouse in Kiko Alonso to acquire the 2013 NFL rushing leader. McCoy will add flare to a Bills backfield that has never had a consistent force. Rex Ryan’s ground and pound attack will be a fun one with McCoy carrying the ball.

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PH: [B] Although I love LeSean McCoy, due to his explosiveness and versatility in both the running and passing game, I hate the coaching pairing. Rex Ryan preaches a ground-and-pound offense, which Shady certainly doesn’t fit into. Furthermore, new offensive coordinator Greg Roman doesn’t use his running backs in space out of the backfield. Granted, San Francisco’s running backs never possessed the speed of McCoy, but that must draw a red flag for a team that will make the Shady the focal point of the offense. Having Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin on the outside will definitely draw attention away from McCoy, but I’m hesitant that Rex Ryan will come through.  

Shane Vereen → Giants

JC: [B+] Vereen plays well out of the backfield, which will give Eli Manning yet another major target. That’s the biggest reason I like this move. If the Giants offense lives up to its explosive potential in 2015, we’ll look back at this move as a huge positive.

BD: [B] A good move for both sides. Vereen will get a chance to shoulder a bit more of the load for an offense. In his four NFL seasons, he has yet to break the 100-carry barrier. As for the Giants, they’re assembling a balanced and powerful offense that should help them recover from a frankly abysmal 2014. Now, instead of forcing the ball into tight windows, Eli Manning can find the sure-handed Vereen and dump off the ball when necessary.

BE: [B+] I really like this move for the Giants. Not only does Eli Manning get another receiving threat to pass to, but he also gets someone that is reliable. In the last couple years Giants wideouts have notoriously been known to drop the ball, but Shane Vereen is as reliable as it gets. Going from Tom Brady to Eli Manning might not be to the best of his delight, but Vereen was a great upgrade for the G-Men.

Credit: USA TODAY Sports

RH: [A] The Giants get a running back who isn’t that great--so why an A you ask? The answer: Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Ruben Randle, and now Shane Vereen? Vereen has some of the best hands of any back in the league. As a runner, he isn’t too intimidating. But thinking about how many weapons Eli Manning has to throw to now IS intimidating. 

PH: [A-] With the explosive Victor Cruz coming back from injury to line up opposite emerging superstar Odell Beckham, Jr., Shane Vereen gives Eli Manning another toy to throw to. Manning has had a propensity to make questionable decisions, throwing errant passes into the hands of the opposing defense. Vereen provides a safety net for checkdown passes, giving the Giants some yardage rather than turn the ball over. The only knock on this move is that the Giants need an established running back, as Andre Williams struggled in his rookie season. However, I like the decision to give Eli more options.

Ryan Mathews → Eagles

JC: [C] $11 million over three years for a backup to a top-5 running back? This move doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and while I’m usually willing to give Chip Kelly the benefit of the doubt, this is a move I can’t quite wrap my head around. Mathews is rarely healthy, and with Darren Sproles already on the roster, Mathews was a luxury the Eagles didn’t need.

BD: [C] With the signing of Murray, this falls into the “baffling Chip Kelly moves 2015” category. Mathews is a similarly sized back to Murray, but with less ability and a more worrisome injury history. I hope that Mathews recovers well from his MCL injury and returns to the efficient year he had in 2013. He very well may and the Eagles will have an embarrassment of running back riches. However, $5 million in guarantees is a lot to give to a luxury, particularly one that may struggle to stay on the field. 

BE: [C+] In his five years in the NFL, Matthews has only played one full NFL season. He surely has shown some glimpses of a quick, agile back, but he’s also shown fumbling issues and a lack of a very strong NFL IQ. He’s good insurance for the Eagles, but Philly could’ve spent money elsewhere (defense, possibly). Philly already has Sproles for insurance, so this move may not have been the wisest choice for the Eagles.

Credit: AP

RH: [B] The Eagles get a quality, versatile back that was only on the market because of the injuries that have plagued him. He will provide relief for Murray, and can aid in the pass attack. Granted he can stay healthy, we are still talking about a former Pro Bowl selection. 

PH: [C+] I don’t quite understand this move given that the Eagles had the opportunity to back out of this deal once they had a commitment from DeMarco Murray. When healthy, Mathews is a very good rusher who can also contribute to the passing game. However, he is a pretty poor choice of an insurance option to Murray given his propensity for injury. With Jeremy Maclin on the way out, the Eagles should have allocated that money toward a wide receiver, as having a field-stretcher is a necessity in Chip Kelly’s offense.  

Frank Gore→ Colts

JC: [B+] Spotrac lists Frank Gore’s contract as containing $6.5 million in guaranteed money, which is a lot for a 32-year-old running back, but it may have been necessary, given how desperate the Colts were for consistency in the backfield. If Gore brings 80 percent of the output he had in San Francisco for all those years, the Colts will look like big winners with this deal.

BD: [B+] The Falcons fan in me worries about this move. Atlanta “liberated” Steven Jackson from toiling in mediocrity in St. Louis, only to find that he had used all of his explosiveness in the ugly confines of the Edward Jones Dome. Gore will be 32 for this season, but has been unbelievably consistent throughout his career. Any aging RB is a gamble, but I think that Gore will help take some of the load off of Andrew Luck’s arm, at least in 2015. I’m confident that he won’t be worse than Trent Richardson was, and he also comes cheaper. 

BE: [B] Any back is an improvement over Trent Richardson, to be honest. However, the Colts were simply looking for consistency in the backfield and someone to rely on. With Frank Gore, the Colts found that. The problem is: Gore is 31. Gore is in the tail-end of his career, and it goes to be seen how much he has left. The Colts can’t completely rely on him, but he will provide enough relief for Andrew Luck to throw with more success than he has thus far in his career.

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RH: [C+] The Colts seem to finally have found a solution to the backfield. The only reason they earn a C+ from me is because Frank Gore certainly has used up much of the tread on his tires. What I do like about this acquisition is that Gore brings maturity to an offense that is led by one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Andrew Luck. These are two grown men who know what it means to win football games. If his age doesn't beat him, this is a good place for Gore. 

PH: [A+] The Colts’ offense has been reminiscent of the Peyton Manning era -- a prolific passing attack with a blind eye to the ground game. While Andrew Luck has already established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the game, the Colts cannot fully capitalize on his abilities if opposing defenses can anticipate a pass on every down (Luck threw 38.5 times per game last season). Frank Gore solves this gaping hole in their already scary offense as a North-South runner who can fight for extra yards. Although Gore will be 32 by the time the season starts, he has shown no signs of slowing down. A three-year, $12 million contract is a low-risk, extremely high-reward investment for a team on the cusp of the Super Bowl. The addition of Gore makes this offense one of the best in the league. 

Reggie Bush→ 49ers

JC: [C] The best part of this contract is the fact that it’s for only one year. With the financial terms still undisclosed, fans just have to hope that the Niners didn’t overpay for an injury-prone, consistently under-performing running back. Signing Bush is a stopgap move; we could see San Francisco draft a running back in the middle rounds this year.

BD: [C-] Yes, Frank Gore will be 32 this season, so moving on appears to show some attention to the future. However, it unequivocally makes the team worse in 2015, and the signing of Reggie Bush sends mixed signals about looking forward. Bush has moved beyond the “great potential” phase of his career. His ceiling at this point (30 years old this March) is a similar campaign to his 2013 with the Lions, where he cracked 1,000 yards and played 14 games. With his injury history and the short-lived life of the modern RB, the 49ers are hoping for a best-case scenario. 

BE: [C] In essence, the 49ers did the exact opposite of what the Colts did: they went from a consistent runner, to an inconsistent runner. Reggie Bush has talent, we all know that. However, he’s proven to be fairly injury-prone and a little “dancy” in the backfield. Losing Gore was horrible, and Bush may not have been the best replacement. The 49ers downhill trend in this off season continues as they seem to be heading into a dreadful season in 2015-16.

RH: [C] The 49ers lose a consistent, forward-rusher in Gore and replace him with Reggie Bush, who has rightfully earn ed himself the title of mediocre. His career seemed to have been resurrected with the Lions, but he never even played as well as Joique Bell did. He’s strong in the pass game, but this 49ers team has been on the decline all off-season and Bush doesn’t seem to be the answer. 

Credit: Getty Images

PH: [D] Given what the Colts paid to pluck Frank Gore away from the Eagles, the Niners could have shelled out a slightly higher offer to retain a future Hall of Fame running back, who has contributed 1000+ yard rushing campaigns eight of the past nine seasons. The loss of Mike Iupati on the offensive line adds another blow to this rushing attack. Reggie Bush is extremely volatile, as his poor health history keeps him from being the dynamic dual threat playmaker that he has shown glimpses of throughout his career. If Bush can stay on the field, then the Niners could come away with some nice production...but that’s a big if.

Roy Helu→ Raiders

JC: [B+] Helu goes from being a backup in Washington to… probably being a backup in Oakland. I’ve been a fan of Helu, but he’s never really been able to truly showcase his abilities. Whether that eventually happens in Oakland is yet to be seen.

BD: [B+] A smart move by the Raiders to grab a player with promise and a history of solid play at the RB position, but I get the sense they’ll manage to “Raider” it all up. Maybe even later in this roundtable...

BE: [B] We all know Helu never got a fair chance in Washington. Playing behind Alfred Morris, he never truly was able to show exactly what he can do. With a 5.4 avg in YPC last year, Helu can surely run behind a mediocre offensive line. Now in Oakland, behind another mediocre offensive line, he’ll have more of a chance than he did in Washington. Oakland also gets a reliable back, moving forward past the injury-prone McFadden.

Credit: USATSI

RH: [B+] Who knows if Helu will actually get a starting role? What I believe is that Helu is highly underrated. Playing much of his career under Mike Shanahan, a coach infamous for never sticking with one running back (fantasy football owners, you feel me), Helu never got a chance to truly display his capabilities. In his first year as a Redskin, Helu amassed 151 carries for 640 yards, and average of 4.2 YPC. The same year he caught 49 passes for 379 yards, an average of 7.7 YPR. This guy has potential, and Derek Carr could grow to rely on him.

PH: [A] Helu has never been flashy, but he has given the Redskins solid production over the past couple of years. The Raiders have a promising young franchise quarterback in Derek Carr. Giving him a tailback in Helu who can run for a nice gain or kick out of the backfield to catch a screen pass is a valuable option for a young quarterback. Helu doesn’t solve the Raiders’ offensive woes, but he will help take the pressure off of Carr.

Darren McFadden→ Cowboys

JC: [F] Why not just give Joseph Randle a chance to earn the starting job? By signing McFadden, the Cowboys managed to get older and more injury prone. Dallas had better have a plan at running back that includes Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon, because if not, the Cowboys are sure to be worse in 2015.

BD: [D-] This feels like one of those Cowboys signings where Jerry Jones decided that the name recognition of Darren McFadden was more valuable than signing a RB with some promise. McFadden barely broke 500 yards and averaged 3.4 YPA despite playing all 16 games. Some of that can be blamed on Oakland, but I see no value in being the team that tries to wash off the silver-and-black stink. But hey, maybe some Arkansas alumni needed some prodding to get down to Jerry-World!

BE: [C] The Cowboys have a plan. I mean, they have to be planning something up their sleeve. Whether it’s pursuing Adrian Peterson or drafting a RB in the 2015 Draft, the Cowboys better have another plan, because Darren McFadden will not be enough. While it would be great to see McFadden resurrect his career in Big D behind the Cowboys’ massive offensive line, he’s against most of the odds right now. 

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RH: [D] The Cowboys got older in the backfield by signing Darren McFadden. His glory days are over, and they never truly existed. If people think DeMarco Murray is injury prone, they should take a look at McFadden’s career. I don’t see this signing helping the Cowboys. I’d rather give the rock to Joseph Randle. 

PH: [F] The Cowboys were between a rock and a hard place this off-season. Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray were going to walk if Dallas didn’t lock them up. After applying the franchise tag to Bryant, Murray was a goner. As a true workhorse and rare feature back in the league, Murray will be near impossible to replace. Rumors have circulated that Dallas is a potential landing spot for Adrian Peterson, but that is up in the air. Darren McFadden is a walking question mark when it comes to his health. He is either on the sidelines injured or poorly performing. NFL Draft prospects Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley have yet to show their catching ability and healed knee, respectively. The Cowboys seem to be banking on AP’s return home. For now, Dallas’ only solace for the run game is a killer offensive line.

DeAngelo Williams→ Steelers

JC: [B] Williams is old, but he can be a cheap, solid backup for the Steelers, especially in the game(s) that Le’Veon Bell misses because of his marijuana possession charge. Williams got kind of a bad wrap in Carolina because of how ridiculous his contract was, but that’s more of a complaint for the front office than the man himself. He’ll be a good fit in Pittsburgh.

BD: [B] A solid, low-cost backup. Williams seems well-suited to the role that awaits him in Pittsburgh. With no pressure to usurp LeVeon Bell, the former Panthers RB can be an acceptable injury fill-in and take a minor portion of the load off of Bell’s shoulders. He will also be a great teammate and positive member of the community in Pittsburgh, just like in Carolina, only with a contract that fits that job description. 

BE: [A-] Just like Gore, Williams sits at 31 years-old, and is in the tail end of his career. However, the running duo now built in Pittsburgh will be different from in Carolina. In Carolina the balance was more structured between Williams and Stewart. However with LeVeon Bell at the helm, the Steelers will continue to massively feature him in the offense, but have Williams as a third-down back and simply good insurance. Finally being behind a above average offensive line and a team that can pass the ball successfully must also be great for Williams’ sake.

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RH: [B] I like this signing. With LeVeon Bell likely to miss a game or two because of his drug charges this year, Williams provides stability. Sharing carries with Jonathan Stewart for much of his career in Carolina, Williams was always still considered a player that could have been a workhorse. It doesn’t hurt to have a solid backup who can also serve as a relief for your current star. 

PH: [C+] Despite what he says, I am skeptical concerning how much DeAngelo Williams has left in the tank. He is clearly on the decline of his career. Indeed, sharing carries with Jonathan Stewart puts a damper on your resume, but Williams is far away from his 1000 yard rushing days. This is definitely a low-risk, moderate-reward move with a cheap two-year, $4 million signing. I do think he is a solid back-up to LeVeon Bell that the team has been missing -- especially in this year’s playoffs. He could miraculously provide a spark to the Steelers offense, but I doubt it given his injury history and being on the wrong side of 30.

CJ Spiller→ Saints

JC: [B] As long as he stays healthy, Spiller will complement Mark Ingram well. He has good size and speed, and I think he has a chance to resurrect his career in New Orleans. This Saints “fire sale” nonsense after the trade of Jimmy Graham sure seems to have been hyperbolized, though a shift from a passing game to a running game wouldn’t be a surprise.

BD: [A-] This seems to be a good fit across the board. The Saints are looking to maximize their offensive potential in the twilight of Drew Brees contending window, and Spiller is a big-play, max-out kind of halfback. Sean Payton is surely excited to utilize Spiller as a chaotic force, and his receiving ability should not be overlooked. A suddenly shaky Saints WR corps will take all the help it can get. 

BE: [B+] I’m a big proponent of this signing. Spiller does a lot of what Darren Sproles does, except for the fact that he’s bigger, stronger, and can run the ball better down after down. When the Saints lost Sproles to Philly, their offensive instantly took a step down. Now with Spiller in New Orleans, the Saints not only get a fairly reliable back, but also one that can catch the ball in the backfield and make big, game-changing plays. Spiller will also serve as another threat for Brees to look for, which is another plus.

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RH: [B] This signing makes sense. With the re-signed of Mark Ingram, the Saints need a shifty back to compliment ingrams bruiser style. Spiller can be that, and he can catch the ball too. Spiller has some gas left in his tank, and I think fans and coaches are still waiting on his breakout season. Maybe New Orleans is a good place to have that. 

PH: [A-] Given the Saints’ fire-sale so far this off-season, I’m beginning to believe that the team is transitioning toward an emphasis on the ground game. With Mark Ingram finally starting to prove himself as a bruising runner, Spiller provides the perfect complement. When healthy, Spiller is one of the most explosive running backs in the league, as evidenced by his 2012 campaign in which he had over 1700 yards from scrimmage. Sean Payton knows how to get creative with his offense, so I can see Spiller having a huge year with the Saints and their re-focused offense.

Trent Richardson→ Raiders

JC: [D] What has Richardson done to earn another chance? He has under-performed in almost every way imaginable, and now he ends up on a team that didn’t need another running back. The Raiders have made some good, smart moves this free agency. This was not one of them.

BD: [C-] This move gets a gentleman’s D from me, solely because I love that Richardson has genuinely compared himself to Marshawn Lynch when signing with the Raiders. Yes, he was being benched for playoff games and ending up with a pitiful 3.3 yards per rush last season. But Oakland is the kind of place where a struggling player can thrive! Oh wait, it’s actually a place where veterans go to age into obscurity. 

BE: [D] I don’t really see the reasoning behind this signing. With backs including Helu and Murray already in Oakland, adding one of the biggest busts in the NFL makes no sense. Maybe the Raiders want to be the team that gives Richardson another chance to prove he’s NFL worthy? 

RH: [F] This might be a biased grade, but I was one of those fans that though Trent Richardson would be the next Marshawn Lynch. All he has done is disappoint. He was bad on the Browns and, somehow, he was even worse on an offense that had Andrew Luck. Now he goes to the Raiders, and that is pretty self-explanatory. Because I want to see Roy Helu be a starter, I’m afraid the coaches will give Richardson “one more shot,” and this will waste even more of Helu’s talent as he watches from the wings.  

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PH: [A] Ignoring the Marshawn Lynch comparisons, Trent Richardson has the potential to reinvigorate his NFL career in Oakland. The Raiders have absolutely nothing to lose in this signing. Either Richardson continues to be a bust, or he begins to play like the 3rd overall draft pick from a few years ago. I have been in love with how the Raiders are making cost-conscious and smart personnel decisions via the draft and free agency as of late, and Richardson could be the next one. While this might not be the best for Derek Carr’s development, the gamble has a potentially huge reward. Signing Rodney Hudson at the beginning of free agency will help open holes up the middle for the young back.

Which RB will make the biggest impact on his new team?

JC: Call me biased, but the Colts are a completely different offense with Frank Gore in the backfield. Indianapolis has struggled to run the ball for most of Andrew Luck’s tenure with the team, but having Frank Gore - even a 32-year-old version - to help out with the workload will help drastically. The Colts are legitimate Super Bowl contenders with Gore, even though the run defense is still suspect.

BD: If Chip Kelly’s master plan to turn Sam Bradford, his Tostitos sponsorship, and Vince Papale into Marcus Mariota doesn’t work, DeMarco Murray will again find himself asked to carry an NFC East team into the playoffs. Although his 392 carries last year worry me, this season will only be his fifth in the league, and his second with a full workload. The one thing I remain convinced with about Chip Kelly is that he knows how to utilize a bruising north-south runner to his advantage. 

BE: Frank Gore, despite his age, will help the Colts immensely. For a team that relies heavily on the pass, now that they can lean more into their running game, it’ll only make Luck’s performance better. Gore brings veteran experience as well as a great ability to find holes in defenses. His football IQ is above average, and he’s nothing but a great leader for a young Colts team. By adding Gore and Andre Johnson, the Colts have created a stellar offensive lineup that will take them farther into the playoffs than before. Gore surely made the right move in backing out of the Philly deal to come to Indy.

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RH: I would give this to Roy Helu, except for the fact that Trent Richardson signed with the Raiders. I think Helu is a better back, but coaches love Richardson’s name and continue to look at him for his first round value, not his on field production. If there were some way to know who would start for the Raiders thi s early, I would give this to Helu. If Helu is the starter, he can provide some spark to this team. But, since we don’t know this information, I’m going to give this to LeSean McCoy. The Bills have never had offensive firepower, even though they managed to win games last year. McCoy provides a spark and an elite talent to a team that needs it desperately. McCoy easily becomes the best Bill’s offensive player in quite some time. 

PH: The Frank Gore signing takes the Colts from a Conference Championship to Super Bowl contender. Indianapolis was able to go so far despite not having a semblance of a running game. Enter Gore, and you are now equipped with one of the best tailbacks in the league who consistently posts over 1000 yards a season. Pairing Andrew Luck with such an established runner will take the team to new heights. I am calling it now, Luck brings home the Lombardi Trophy next season, way before Peyton Manning.

Which RB will make the least impact on his new team?

JC: Call it a toss-up between Darren McFadden and Trent Richardson. I don’t see either making a positive impact at all. Richardson can’t produce, and McFadden can’t stay on the field. Neither signing makes any sense to me.

BD: I don’t expect a lot from Reggie Bush. When I want to use convoluted and unwieldy metaphors, I liken him to an expensive and unreliable sports car. As a luxury weapon who can pop off a big play every once in a while, he can find the perfect mix of valuable and dangerous. But after the offseason the 49ers had, they don’t need sports cars. They’ll be riding the city bus to work. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s really no point in owning a fancy car if you’re riding the bus day in and day out. See, I told you my metaphors bordered on nonsensical!

BE: Trent Richardson will not do anything for the Raiders. Oakland will probably not be all that much better than they were last year, and Richardson won’t help that cause. Helu will come out during the preseason and impress everybody and take over the starting role, while Richardson will sit beneath his shadows and not get the chance that he really doesn’t even deserve. 
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RH: Darren McFadden will not help the Cowboys. He used to be fun to watch for the few games he actually played.. This guy might as well be made of glass. Despite how outstanding the Cowboys offensive line is, I’m not sure how much football is left in McFadden. It took the Cowboys years to finally trust the run, and the guy that they trusted with it is now a player for their biggest rival. I don’t see McFadden getting anywhere near 15-20 touches a game. 

PH: In a crowded backfield, I don’t see where Ryan Mathews fits into the Eagles’ game plan. DeMarco Murray has shown that he can carry a hefty workload, as evidenced by his 449 touches last season. With Murray dominating on running downs and Darren Sproles commanding third-and-long. Where does Ryan Mathews belong in this picture? Mathews’ role in the Eagles’ offense hinges on a Murray injury; otherwise, he’ll be stuck watching from the sidelines.

The most surprising move was ____

JC: LeSean McCoy to the Bills was the most surprising move, partially because top-5 running backs are rarely traded, and partially because it was the first in a flurry of RB moves. Losing Kiko Alonso was a big deal, but Buffalo must have felt that it had enough depth at linebacker to make a big-time play for a big-time running back. We’ll see how it works out for them.

BD: LeSean McCoy to the Bills. You knew Rex Ryan was going to find a way to make upstate New York front page news, but this was a bombshell. Trades in the NFL are rare, and blockbuster ones whose impact is felt throughout the league are even more so. I’m excited to see how Rex uses McCoy, and even more excited to see McCoy seize the opportunity, like I expect him to. 

BE: Ryan Matthews to Philly was in my perspective, the most surprising move of free agency. Despite the fact that Matthews was rumored to be on his way to Philly before DeMarco was, the fact that the Eagles went on to sign both backs surprised me. With Darren Sproles already sitting in Philly with a backup role, one would normally assume that the Eagles would just add one more back to replace McCoy. Instead, the Eagles went and signed both Murray and Matthews. I don’t see Matthews having much of a role (unless one of the two other backs get injured) with the Eagles, as Murray and Sproles compliment each other well, and barring any injury, they should have a good amount of success. Is Matthews just insurance? We’ll see.

Credit: USA TODAY Sports

RH: LeSean McCoy going to the Bills is easily the biggest surprise. The trade shook up the entire NFL, and it is the most memorable trade in quite some time (maybe since Richardson to the Colts). No fan in the world could have predicted this move. Often times free agency is easy to predict. Certain players are just “destined” to end up with a team. One example is Byron Maxwell going to the Eagles. People were talking about this move in January and, lo and behold, on March 10th he is an Eagle. This McCoy move, though, was a shocker, and it reminded fans how unpredictable the NFL can be. 

PH: C.J. Spiller to the Saints blew my mind. It seemed that a Chan Gailey reunion with the Jets was written in the stars for Spiller. However, he opted to sign with a team that has an unclear direction given the plethora of offseason moves that have completely changed the face of this pass-heavy team. Given Spiller’s explosiveness, one would have thought that he would sign with a team that will feature him more prominently in the offense. Given New Orleans’ commitment to the run moving forward, I can see Spiller taking on a role similar to Darren Sproles, while simultaneously posing as a home-run threat on the ground.

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