No. 2 RBs Available Via Free Agency

RB Chester Taylor (Getty: Dilip Vishwanat)

Kevin Jones got hurt yet again. Garrett Wolfe hasn't gotten any bigger. Adrian Peterson is likely a goner. Kahlil Bell? Meh. Obviously, the Chicago Bears are going to need another back behind Matt Forte.

Pierre Thomas

Status: Restricted free agent
Possible Suitors: Saints
Most Likely Destination: Saints

Thomas is an interesting story. The Saints signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2007. He competed against fourth-round pick Antonio Pittman for the final roster spot at running back. Thomas wound up winning that job, and his role increased as the season progressed. Veteran Deuce McAllister missed 13 games, and Reggie Bush also missed four games due to injury. Thomas only had 69 touches that season, but you could see his talent.

Over the past two years, Thomas has led the team in rushing and his importance to the offense has grown. He posted a career-high 186 touches last season, along with career highs in rushing and receiving yardage.

The expectation is that he'll yield at least a first-round tender from the Saints. The salary for three-year restricted free agents is $2.396 million. Should they decide to use a first- and third-round tender on Thomas, he would earn $3.043 million. The bottom line is that Thomas' versatility to the Saints offense is way too important to lose.

Leon Washington

Status: Restricted free agent
Possible Suitors: Jets
Most Likely Destination: Jets

Unfortunately for Washington, he suffered a gruesome broken right leg during the team's Oct. 25 game at Oakland. Washington missed the rest of the season and is still rehabbing the injury. It's believed Washington turned down at least a few contract offers before he got hurt, so he has no leverage at this point based on the fact that he's coming back from a serious injury.

The diminutive-but-speedy back has been an important part of the Jets offense since he was drafted in 2006. He has posted a career 4.8 yards-per-carry average and been very effective in their passing game. The jack-of-all-trades has also been an explosive special-teams returner.

The Jets could choose to tender him at a second-round level, $1.759 million, but he might attract significant interest from other teams at that level. A first-round tender of $2.521 million would probably be enough to scare off other suitors. The Jets need Washington's speed as a complement to backs Shonn Greene and Thomas Jones, so look for them to do what they can to keep him.

Chester Taylor

Status: Unrestricted free agent
Possible Suitors: Vikings, Ravens, Browns, Chiefs, Eagles, Chargers, Rams
Most Likely Destination: Open

Teams generally don't have much interest in 31-year-old backs – he turns 31 on Sept. 22 – but Taylor will likely be viewed by personnel evaluators in a different light. Over his eight years of play, Taylor has just one season in which he carried the ball over 200 times (2006). Durability also hasn't been an issue, as he has only missed three games over the past four seasons. He's known as a solid third-down back and pass protects well. He has also been a good short-yardage back.

It's very possible that a team offers him a short-term deal to be a starter, or a good enough role for him to gain significant playing time. The Vikings really need to make an effort to re-sign him, as they have no other viable options to replace his role on their current roster.

The Ravens, who drafted Taylor, could need a veteran back for depth purposes if they cut the aging Willis McGahee. The Browns, who cut Jamal Lewis, also could be looking for a back to replace him. The Chiefs need a back to go along with speedy Jamaal Charles. With the likelihood the Eagles don't bring back Brian Westbrook next season, Taylor could replace his roles on third down and in short yardage. The Chargers are expected to release LaDainian Tomlinson soon, so they would be really hurting at the position. Taylor could be a short-term solution as a starter. The Rams need a backup to starter Steven Jackson. Samkon Gado and Kenneth Darby weren't impressive enough last season.

Darren Sproles

Status: Restricted free agent
Possible Suitors: Chargers, Redskins, Rams, 49ers
Most Likely Destination: Open


RB Darren Sproles
Getty Images: Stephen Dunn

Sproles, like so many free agents, will be restricted unless a new CBA can be reached by Mar. 5. A unique talent, he fits in as a change-of-pace back but is also a dangerous special-teams returner. He also proved to be an outstanding weapon in San Diego's passing game the past two seasons with nine TD catches to go along with an 11.4 yards-per-catch average.

The problem the Chargers have to deal with is Sproles must get at least a 10 percent increase – or 110 percent of last year's salary – over last year's $6.621 million unless they tender him at the lowest level ($1.226 million). Should they do that, they wouldn't be entitled to any compensation in return if they declined to match another team's offer sheet. If they tender him at any other level, he would earn a salary of $7.2831 million. He would earn a guaranteed salary of $7.9452 million if he's named their franchise player once again in. The best way to bring him back would be to sign him to a long-term deal. There's a realistic possibility that Sproles isn't re-signed because of the complexities of the situation. If that transpires, he probably would receive significant interest elsewhere.

San Francisco could really use a change-of-pace back, plus it's not a secret that they are looking to upgrade their return game. The Rams not only need speed at running back behind Jackson, but they could use some on special teams. Danny Amendola did a nice job last season, but he doesn't possess the speed of Sproles. The Redskins are also another team that could use some speed at running back to go along with a boost on returns.

Carnell Williams

Status: Restricted free agent
Possible Suitors: Buccaneers
Most Likely Destination: Buccaneers

According to sources around the league, Williams' final season on his rookie deal will void based on him meeting minimum playing-time requirements. Unfortunately, that will still make him a restricted free agent if a new CBA isn't in place by the deadline.

"Cadillac" is one of the most amazing stories in the NFL in recent years, considering how he has been able to come back after suffering a series of serious knee injuries. He still hasn't shown enough durability to use anything higher than a second-round tender on him, but he has shown that he can be part of a two-man backfield.

LenDale White

Status: Restricted free agent
Possible Suitors: Titans
Most Likely Destination: Open

Because he only has five accrued seasons of play, White will be a restricted free agent this year assuming no new CBA is reached. It was just two seasons ago that White led the NFL in rushing touchdowns (15). But with Chris Johnson's emergence in 2009, White's role was significantly reduced. He went from 200 carries in 2008 to just 64 in 2009. He also only scored twice last season.

It's not certain that the Titans will even tender White because of his decreased role last season. The team is also said to be high on fifth-round pick Javon Ringer. If he's not brought back, White offers another team a solid power back in a No. 2 role.

Other running backs to consider: Cleveland's Jerome Harrison (RFA), Pittsburgh's Willie Parker (UFA), New England's Kevin Faulk (UFA), Cincinnati's Larry Johnson (UFA) and Atlanta's Jerious Norwood (RFA) and Jason Snelling (RFA).


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Adam Caplan is the senior NFL reporter for Scout.com.

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