1. Knowshon Moreno (DEN) – The Broncos know that Moreno will transform his excellent 2013 campaign into a big payday in 2014, and they have the depth at RB to let him go without much of a fight. He finished 2013 with 1,586 total yards (including 548 receiving yards on 60 receptions) and 13 TDs. He’s a complete back and could find a home in Indianapolis or Tennessee if he doesn’t get a new deal in Denver.
The Best Fit: Colts, Broncos, Titans
2. Ben Tate (HOU) – It’s highly unlikely that the Texans will spend the money necessary to keep Tate slogging through limited use in a backup role, where Arian Foster rules the roost and other fresh talent has been emerging. The Browns are in hot pursuit of Tate, according to ESPN, although that report came out before Gary Kubiak (considered for the OC position) headed to Baltimore to run the Ravens offense. Still, the Browns need an all-purpose back with upside, and Tate makes sense in Cleveland as well as Baltimore – where both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce have shown glaring inconsistencies.
The Best Fit: Browns, Ravens, Colts
3. Darren McFadden (OAK) – If McFadden re-signs with the Raiders, it won’t be good for his fantasy value. He’s 26 years old and coming off yet another injury-plagued season, so a fresh start in a new environment could mean another chance at success. Unfortunately, Run-DMC will probably ask for way too much money and end up as a late addition in training camp for a non-contender. In a perfect world, he’d go to the Colts and compete for a starting spot in a potent offense, but there’s just no telling where he’ll land.
The Best Fit: Colts, Cardinals, Raiders
4. Andre Brown (NYG) – Both Brown and the Giants are on amicable terms heading into 2014 and could reach a deal to keep the talented back in New Jersey. Brown’s injury issues aren’t that big of a concern and he’s been effective as a lead back when called upon the past two seasons. There’s a chance he signs a lucrative deal elsewhere, but the smart money is on a reunion with the Mara family and another season playing for the Giants.
The Best Fit: Giants, Steelers, Bucs
5. Rashad Jennings (OAK) – If the Raiders don’t bring back McFadden, they’d be smart to sign Jennings to a one- or two-year deal. The 28-year-old (he’ll be 29 in March) played well last season in 15 games and doesn’t have a lot of wear on his body after spending several seasons as Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup in Jacksonville.
The Best Fit: Raiders, Colts, Cowboys
6. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) – The Jags seem uninterested in signing MJD, who’s nearly 29 with an odometer that just keeps flipping. He looked worn out last season playing behind a bad offensive line and doesn’t have a shot at a long-term contract on the open market. When somebody signs him, it’ll be an incentive-laden deal that won’t exceed a couple seasons – an offer that makes sense for a team like the Cards, who could use a pass-catching back with experience to transition into the Andre Ellington era.
The Best Fit: Cardinals, Packers, Browns
7. Rashard Mendenhall (ARI) – The once-effective Mendenhall was unimpressive in 2013, rushing for just 687 yards on 217 carries (3.2 YPC) and making little impact in the passing game. In his defense, he’s a grinder, not much of a receiving threat and was best when deployed near the goal line (8 rushing TDs). That’s the kind of job he’ll assume again, either for the Cards or for another team desperate for red zone upside from a big body.
The Best Fit: Bucs, Jaguars, Giants
8. Donald Brown (IND) – Brown may have spent his last day in Indy, where he’s never really gotten the vote of confidence needed to make his mark. He’s still an explosive back with upside in the passing game, but he has to be unhappy with the Colts constant search for a lead back. While the Colts should probably offer him a contract as insurance against the enduring flop that Trent Richardson has become, it’s hard to say if the two sides can come together.
The Best Fit: Colts, Packers, Steelers
9. LeGarrette Blount (NE) – The Pats got a lot out of Blount last season, when the former Buc rejuvenated his career and took over lead back duties after Stevan Ridley fumbled away the job. The Pats will probably offer Blount a couple million bucks for a one-year deal to stick around, which makes sense for both sides. If not, I could see the Dolphins or Jags making a run at him.
The Best Fit: Patriots, Dolphins, Jaguars
10. James Starks (GB) – The Packers have expressed an interest in bringing Starks back after the 27-year-old back had his best season (5.5 yards per carry), albeit with limited touches. Starks has had injury issues but was once a postseason hero for the Packers. If he doesn’t come back to Green Bay, he’d fit in well with the Giants and the Vikings – who will need a capable backup for Adrian Peterson if Toby Gerhart leaves for greener pastures.
The Best Fit: Packers, Giants, Vikings