Dull year for running back free agency

It remains to be seen if Derrick Ward can even
duplicate his 1,025-yard, two touchdown season of 2008.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In contrast to the receiver position, free agent movement for veteran NFL running backs has been slow this off-season and will have little effect on next year's fantasy drafts.

At receiver, we saw Terrell Owens move to Buffalo opening up a possible starring role for Roy Williams, Marvin Harrison leave Indianapolis opening up an opportunity for Anthony Gonzalez and better quarterback talent land in Kansas City and Chicago to help both their passing games, but in the running game the off-season has been much "slower."

At most only four "fantasy-worthy" players changed teams and even among those four, there is limited fantasy value.

The four running backs who changed teams and still might have fantasy value are Derrick Ward, Fred Taylor, Correll Buckhalter and Maurice Morris. That's not exactly a All-Pro list.

Of the four, Ward appears to be the safest bet on Draft Day. He'll turn 29 this year and will finally be out of Brandon Jacobs' shadow. Tampa Bay gave him a four-year, $17 million deal and he will have a better opportunity to shine in Florida sharing the backfield with Earnest Graham instead of both Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.

While he'll get more carries in Tampa, he's also not working with as good an offensive line or quarterback. It remains to be seen if Ward can even duplicate his 1,025-yard, two touchdown season of 2008, although he certainly should get more opportunities to score without Jacobs in front of him.

Taylor joins a crowded backfield in New England, one that includes Sammy Morris (727 yards, 7 TDs), Kevin Faulk (507 yards, 3 TDs), BenJarvis Green-Ellis (275 yards, 5 TDs) and Laurence Maroney. It's hard to imagine a scenario where Taylor can contribute to a fantasy team.

It's also a confusing situation in Denver, where Buckhalter, a career backup to Philadelphia Eagles Brian Westbrook, signed a multi-year deal. They also signed J.J. Arrington from Arizona who was third on the depth chart behind an aging Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower and Lamont Jordan away from New England. And this is a team which already had Selvin Young, Michael Pittman, Andre Hall, Ryan Torain and a fullback in Peyton Hillis who did a fine job in a substitute role last season before he was injured.

The last "name" running back to change teams was Morris, who left Seattle for what is likely a backup role behind second-year running back Kevin Smith. Smith had a solid rookie campaign (976 yards, 8 touchdowns) for a team that was always behind on the scoreboard and had to throw more than run. Smith also caught 39 passes, so unless he is injured, I'm not sure how much fantasy value Morris has this upcoming season.

Running Back Free Agent Address Changes
Player Old Team New Team
JJ Arrington AZ DEN
Correll Buckhalter PHI DEN
Eldra Buckley SD PHI
Heath Evans NE NO
Noah Herron NYJ CLE
Lamont Jordan NE DEN
Mike Karney NO STL
Maurice Morris SEA DET
Dominic Rhodes IND BUF
Terrell Smith AZ DET
Fred Taylor JAC NE
Derrick Ward NYG TB
Leonard Weaver SEA PHI
Jason Wright CLE AZ

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.
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