NFL free agents 2013: Reggie Bush, Steven Jackson among highest-paid running backs

Mike Ehrmann

Running backs weren't the most coveted players in this year's free-agent class. A few managed to make decent paydays, though. Who's left among the group?

NFL teams often seem content with drafting running backs instead of adding free agents to address the position. Look at this year's draft class and you'll find a lengthy list of promising prospects, leaving the current available players looking less attractive to an extent.

Reggie Bush and Steven Jackson were the early signings off the market, both landing with new teams, but running backs haven't been causing much of a commotion in free agency news. If you're looking for an oft-injured, aging back, teams can find a handful still searching for work right now.

Biggest contracts

1. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions: four years, $16 million ($4 million signing bonus, $5 million guaranteed)

Bush landed the biggest contract out of his position in free agency, signing with a team that plans to utilize his talents to the full extent. The Lions love passing the ball, and that might be an understatement. Bush is perfect fit here, and will rack up the receptions with Matthew Stafford, assuming they both stay healthy.

2. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons: three years, $12 million ($3.5 million signing bonus, $4 million guaranteed)

Jackson voided his contract with the St. Louis Rams in his pursuit of landing with a Super Bowl contender. He believed the Falcons were one running back away from a title. Well, here's his chance to prove that theory. Set to turn 30 in July, Jackson's productive years are limited going forward. He needs to make the most of 2013.

3. Shonn Greene, Tennessee Titans: three years, $10 million ($2.5 million signing bonus, $4.5 million guaranteed)

It's hard to believe Greene is receiving $10 million to fall forward into a pile of linemen several times a game. He isn't the powerful runner his size would lead one to believe, but the Titans are trusting him to relieve Chris Johnson in short-yardage situations. Expect Greene to see action around the goal line as well.

4. Mike Goodson, New York Jets: three years, $6.9 milllion ($1.925 million signing bonus)

Goodson played behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina, and then served as a backup for Darren McFadden last season. Now in a "wide open" situation with the Jets, Goodson could prove to be a reliable starter. His main competition is Bilal Powell, which is more promising for his playing time than previous situations.

5. Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona Cardinals: one year, $2.5 million ($500,000 signing bonus, $1 million in incentives)

Mendenhall has history with Bruce Arians, so he might be looking at featured back duties in 2013. He worked his way back from an ACL tear last season, but he's no Adrian Peterson. Expect Mendenhall to be more productive with another year removed from surgery.

Still available

Ahmad Bradshaw

Several teams appear to be vying for Bradshaw's services. The Jets have been linked off and on, along with the Packers and Steelers. Even re-signing with the Giants is one option at this point. Bradshaw underwent foot surgery back in February, and given his history of appearing on the injury report often, teams aren't lining up to hand him a huge contract. He wants to be a featured back. Will any team rely on him in this role? Probably not. But, he's an extremely talented runner when healthy.

Cedric Benson

A Lisfranc injury sidelined Benson for a significant amount of 2012, keeping him out after the beginning of October. The Packers seem like the only team discussing Benson's potential on the roster, and even then their interest is lukewarm. A 30-year-old running back coming off of injury isn't an ideal prospect. He may be better suited waiting to sign with a contender in need of running back help this coming season.

Beanie Wells

Red flags are all over Well's profile. He can't stay healthy, and the Cardinals were too worried about his knee to keep him around. The Steelers gave Wells a physical earlier this month. However, negative reports from his testing continue to deter suitors. A talented, young back with major concerns, Wells will keep searching for someone to give him a chance.

Peyton Hillis

His breakout campaign in 2010 seems to be forgotten. When healthy, Hillis averaged just 3.6 yards per carry over the past two seasons with the Browns and Chiefs. The market hasn't been kind to him. Hillis may be best suited for a goal-line role.

Bernard Scott

Scott tore his ACL in October, so recovering from surgery remains priority No. 1. If he can show other NFL teams he's healthy again, he might be able to find a new team. Cincinnati doesn't appear to be bringing Scott back. Now 29 years old, he's reaching his talent cliff as well.

Michael Turner

Turner was reportedly released by the Falcons after he failed a physical. Another aging back, he just turned 31 in February and is coming off a poor campaign in 2012. Turner just isn't the same running these days. He struggles to find space or gain speed out of the backfield. He doesn't plan on retiring, but will he have another option?

Felix Jones

There aren't any visits scheduled for Jones. The Cowboys have discussed bringing him back, but we haven't seen any progress between the two sides. At 25, Jones is a younger option in this pack of elderly veterans. Unfortunately his injury history and poor performance will keep other teams at bay.

2012 contracts

Arian Foster, Houston Texans: five years, $43.5 million ($8.7 million per season, $12.5 million signing bonus, $20.75 million guaranteed)

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: six years, $45.6 million ($7.6 million per season, $8.5 million signing bonus, $20.765 million guaranteed)

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: four years, $31 million ($7.75 million per season, $6 million signing bonus, $17 million guaranteed)

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears: four years, $30.4 million ($7.6 million per season, $4 million signing bonus, $13.8 million guaranteed)

Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens: five years, $35 million ($7 million per season, $15 million signing bonus, $15 million guaranteed)

There really is no comparison between the new contracts signed by running backs in 2012 and those that have been signed so far by running backs in 2013. It doesn't help that the evolution of the game is gradually devaluing the position, but more noticeably the talent last season was simply better.

The 2014 offseason could be a better indication of how salaries in the running back market are trending, with Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden potentially capable of drawing comparable figures to the names listed just above. As for 2013, the disparity in talent level from 2012 makes direct comparison somewhat fruitless.

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