Running Back Stock Market Report — NFC SOUTH
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 SOUTH.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have created the blueprint for the modern day NFL GM to address the running back position. They have invested wisely with mid round running back picks, and hit on more than one. The end result has been excellent production for an extremely affordable price. This may come to an end, however, as Devonta Freeman’s favorable contract is almost up, and his agent has voiced a desire to sign a major deal this offseason. The team may choose to pay Freeman, but it is important to know they have the younger and highly explosive Coleman locked up through 2018…With two backs of this caliber, it’s entirely possible one may end up on another team for the long-term.
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers will likely add running back competition in this year’s draft. Stewart is scheduled to be among the highest paid running backs in the league in 2017, and his guaranteed money may be too much for the team to consider cutting him. His status beyond this season, however, is completely up in the air; In 2018, he will be entering his age 30 season, and the money he is due decreases significantly. Fozzy Whittaker is a free agent, but adds value on special teams and may be a depth player the team chooses to resign. Cameron Artis-Payne has not produced consistently, and his inability to contribute on special teams may leave him on the roster bubble.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints will likely add some depth to this backfield in 2016, but Mark Ingram’s contract and production have him cemented as “the guy” for at least 2017. Ingram’s usage is a mystery; He’s in his prime (27 years old), and shown an ability to produce consistently when given an opportunity. His contract suggests the team is committed to him, and if the team moves on from Tim Hightower, it could be a great chance for increased touches. Daniel Lasco lit up the NFL combine, but showed very little in 2016. He’s not a lock to the make the team. Expect the Saints to focus on adding depth to complement Ingram, likely through the later rounds of the draft (inexpensive/ youth).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs have a backfield that is primed for a makeover. Doug Martin had a resurgent 2015 season, and signed a multi-year deal in the offseason. Unfortunately, two things happened: 1) His contract was structured with no guaranteed money beyond 2016, and 2) He disappointed on the field, and faced struggles off the field…As a result, Martin is a virtual lock to be released. This would leave the Bucs with Charles Sims as the only player under contract at the position. Sims has been productive at times, but has struggled to show the consistency to be a bell cow. Rodgers played well for a short stint in 2016, but he’s been a player throughout his career that is not capable of shouldering the load full-time. Expect the Bucs to add a player this offseason, and expect that player to have the potential for a major impact due to the touches vacated by Martin (20+ touches per game).