It's typically tough for running backs to ink big money deals. By the time they hit free agency, they are normally into their late 20s, when most teams are wary of signing players at a position where the 30s represent the death of their careers. There are exceptions, of course, and normally those elite running backs who can rake in the cash do so by re-signing with their teams before they hit free agency.
As a result, free agency isn't normally kind to running backs and this offseason isn't any different. There isn't an eye-popping deal out there. It's tough being a running back on the free agent market.
Let's run down the running backs who scored decent paychecks this spring.
Four years, $16 million, $4 million guaranteed
After two years in Miami, Bush is headed to a Detroit team that desperately needs him. Mikel Leshoure is a fine running back, but not nearly complete enough to take the bulk of the touches for the Lions after averaging just 3.7 yards per carry last season. Now the Lions have Bush, a solid runner and one of the best pass-catching backs in the league. They also got him at a reasonable price, with just $2 million counting against the cap in 2013 so the Lions were able to structure the contract as they wanted as well.
Three years, $10 million, $4.5 million guaranteed
Green is coming off a season in which he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry for the New York Jets, so the Titans rewarded him with a deal that will pay him an average of around $3.3 million annually. It was a truly perplexing contract for Tennessee to hand out, especially for a team that already has Chris Johnson in the fold. Johnson may not run for 2,000 yards, but the Titans still have $10 million invested in him next season. So either they signed Greene to cut into their franchise running back's carries or they are paying Greene an exorbitant sum for 50 touches this season.
One year, $2.5 million, $500,000 guaranteed, up to $1 million in incentives
After perhaps the worst season of his career, Mendenhall is joining up with his former coach Bruce Arians again, this time in Arizona. It's a deal that makes sense for both sides, as the Cardinals get to make a relatively small commitment to a player who showed that he can be an elite running back from 2009-11 when he averaged more than 1,100 yards and nearly 10 touchdowns. Mendenhall gets a year to prove last season was a blip before hitting free agency again and getting the more lucrative deal he was hoping for this offseason.
Running backs on the outside looking in
Michael Turner: It's July and Turner still does not have a team. That isn't too surprising considering he is 31 years old and coming off of his worst season in years, but he did run for 1,340 yards just two years ago. He also rushed for more than 1,300 yards in 2010. The question is whether or not he's willing to take an incentive-laden deal and what team is in a position to take a chance on him.
Maurice Jones-Drew: Jones-Drew held out in hopes of getting a new contract last year, but the Jaguars didn't give it to him. Now he's a 28-year-old running back whose contract expires after the season and is coming off of a year in which he played just six games due to injury. If Jones-Drew can be the running back who ran for more than 1,300 in each of the three seasons prior to 2012, he will have a significant payday waiting for him. But step one is playing at least 14 games, which he did every season of his career before last year.
Darren McFadden: McFadden will be a free agent after 2013, when his lucrative $60 million ($26 million guaranteed) rookie contract comes to an end, but whether he can get another big deal depends on whether he can stay healthy. He has never played more than 13 games in a season and the 223 carries he had in 2010 were the most of his five-year career. He averages 4.3 yards per carry for his career and was over five yards per carry in 2010 and 2011 when he had a halfway decent offensive line, but no matter what team he is on, who he is running behind and how talented he is, it won't matter if he is stuck on the training table. He is one healthy season away from going for a swim in a pool full of money, but is that healthy season coming in 2013?