Running Back Stock Market Report — NFC NORTH


By Brian Hawkes

Put yourself in the NFL General Manager’s shoes…If you have a player who has little guaranteed money and he hasn’t performed to expectations (whether due to on field performance, injury, or otherwise), what would you do? If we do this, it’s easy to see why rumors are spreading that the Buccaneers are willing to part ways with Doug Martin or the Broncos may draft a running back in 2017.  A savvy dynasty owner looks at salary cap commitments before acquiring a player to assess the stability of the player’s situation. This article will do just that.

Here is the continuation of an in-depth look at all 32 depth charts. We will assess cap commitment for 2017 and beyond, and also the potential opportunity that may present itself if there is roster turnover/ depth chart changes. Today: the NFC NORTH.

 

NFC North

Chicago Bears: The Bears backfield went from unproven and unknown a year ago, to completely stable with the emergence of Jordan Howard. Howard displayed all of the traits you look for in an every down back, and his favorable contract makes him extremely valuable to the Bears organization. The team has very little guaranteed money committed to their entire stable of running backs, which is ideal for depth behind Howard. This gives them flexibility to add/cut players to compliment Howard, and they may choose to do just that with either Langford or Carey.

 

Detroit Lions: The Lions running back rotation was a mess in 2016 due to a combination of injuries and player limitations. Theo Riddick was the one, steady contributor as he cemented himself as a lethal weapon in the passing game for the third consecutive season. Riddick is also due a good amount of guaranteed money for the foreseeable future, which makes him the safest running back investment on this roster. Abdullah has faced a myriad of injuries since entering the league, and the team is likely to give him at least the 2017 season to prove his worth due to his contract. Zenner and Washington both have shown flashes and will compete for depth. If the team chose to add talent to this group, Zenner or Washington would most likely be cut due to the modest guaranteed money each player is due.

 

Green Bay Packers: The Packers have some decisions to make this offseason; The only stable running back investment at this stage is Ty Montgomery, and the biggest question is whether they will bring back Eddie Lacy. Lacy’s performance, conditioning, and health have been inconsistent for the past two seasons. If they chose to move on from Lacy, that would leave the converted WR, Montgomery, and the declining James Starks under contract for 2017. Starks is not guaranteed a roster spot, however, as the team could save $3 million dollars by cutting the 30 year old, and their history shows a willingness to move on from declining, aging players. The once hyped Christine Michael was a clear liability in the passing game, and was reduced to obvious run situations in 2016. He is a situational player, and there is no guarantee he will be back. Lacy is the key domino to fall this offseason; expect Green Bay to add a running back regardless…but if they move on from Lacy, there may be significant opportunity (16 touches per game minimum) in a high scoring offense.

 

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings running back position is in question for the first time since 2007 as the team faces a key decision on the future of Adrian Peterson. We can safely assume Minnesota will not pay Peterson the $18 million he is due for 2017…this leaves one of two options for the team: 1) Cut him and take no cap penalty, or 2) Renegotiate his deal within market value. Either option leaves the Vikings with a need to restock the backfield for the future as they are either without Peterson, or they have the 31 year old on roster and need a long-term solution. Jerick McKinnon has shown he is better as a complementary piece than he is a focal point in the offense. Matt Asiata really struggled in short yardage situations, but does bring some reliability as a pass protector – there is no guarantee he will be brought back.  Expect the Vikings to draft a running back this offseason, and if Peterson is not on roster, this could be a nice landing spot for that player (15+ touches per game).