As a dynasty owner, one must think beyond the upcoming season and more into the future of their franchise.

One important area of focus for every dynasty owner should be which players are entering a “contract year”. The possibility of free agency not only impacts the player themselves, but their former and future team’s depth chart and the players that currently make that up.

NFL Players who are entering a contract year have that extra incentive to showcase their ability to play in the NFL in hopes of earning that blockbuster contract and therefore should be strongly considered by dynasty owners when making final roster decisions during the offseason.

This series continues with 5 running backs who are entering the last year of their current contract and therefore should be under your watchful eye(s).  So let’s get started with a player who is currently holding out still without a contract……..

 

Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers):

 

Le’Veon Bell is still without a contract after receiving the franchise tag by the Steelers earlier this year and is holding out of camp for a new long term deal. Le’Veon wants to be the highest paid running back in the NFL and that price tag just went up for the Steelers after RB Devonta Freeman just signed a 5 year, $41.25 million dollar contract extension with the Atlanta Falcons with $22 million of that guaranteed making him the highest paid NFL running back under contract.

Bell can hardly complain though as he is set to make over $12 million this year under the franchise tag if the two sides are not able to agree on a new deal. Not to mention he reportedly turned down a deal which would have paid him $30 million over the first two years and $42 million over the first three years.

Unfortunately for Bell, the running back market is not all that great as teams are just not paying backs high-end money so Bell is reportedly asking to be compensated for his receiving ability in addition to being paid as the top running back and therein lies the problem.

 

Potential Team for 2018:

 

For those concerned about Bell holding out this year………don’t worry as he will find it difficult to pass up that $700,000+ weekly salary.  And for those worried that Bell will not be a Steeler next year………don’t worry as I am confident that both parties will eventually come to a mutual agreement that will benefit both sides but it may take more time than we have before the start of the regular season.

Either way, I see absolutely no way Le’Veon is sporting the black and gold on the field week one of the regular season and beyond.

 

 

 

Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland Browns):

 

Crowell has been paying close attention to the deal Devonta Freeman and the Atlanta Falcons just agreed to as he and Freeman both averaged the same yards per carry (4.8) last year.

Isaiah recently hired agent Drew Rosenhaus to defend his argument that his lack of touches is the only thing preventing him from being a top five running back in the NFL and he may very well have a point with the Browns playing from behind a majority of the time and therefore being forced to throw the ball downfield more often than not.

Crowell also argues that he is a complete back who can catch the ball just as well as he can run it which I can’t argue as he caught 40 of 53 targets last year coming out of the backfield.

Crowell’s biggest competition for touches comes from RB Duke Johnson whom Cleveland head coach said can catch the ball as well as any receiver on the team and is obviously a big supporter of him as well as Crowell.  Duke is currently under contract through the 2018 season.

 

Potential Team for 2018:

 

Rosenhaus has been in recent talks with the Browns regarding Crowell’s status and sounds confident that a deal is imminent so I have to believe that a deal gets done possibly before the start of the regular season.

If not, then he could very well choose to test the market next year in hopes that a team such as the Broncos, Colts, Giant or Packers looking to improve their running back situation will add him to their roster.

 

 

Thomas Rawls (Seattle Seahawks):

 

This is a big year for Rawls as he must prove that he can not only be consistently productive as a running back in the NFL, but also remain healthy for an entire season as he has missed significant and valuable time since the Seahawks signed the undrafted free agent in May of 2015 to a three year deal.

An injury to Marshawn Lynch in September of 2015 opened the door for Rawls to get some valuable playing and he took advantage by rushing for 100+ yards and breaking a Seahawks record by rushing for over 200 yards in a game played in November but his season quickly came to an end after fracturing his ankle in December.  Rawls was leading the league in yards per carry prior to that injury his rookie year.

It only took two games the following year for his season to abruptly end due to a fracture to his fibula.

Rawls looks to be completely healthy this year and appears to be the teams’ starting running back so far in the preseason but has a ton of competition from recently acquired Eddie Lacy as well as last years’ draft choices C.J. Prosise (3rd round) and Alex Collins (5th round).

 

Potential Team for 2018:

 

The Seahawks are likely going to be forced to part with at least one RB after this year if not two and Rawls could very well be one that is left looking for another team or is traded as the team moves on.  Eddie Lacy could very well be another player from that backfield looking for work next year if the team feels that Prosise and Collins are able to shoulder the load going forward as the Seahawks only gave Lacy a one year deal making 2017 a contract year for him as well.

Teams that could be interested in Rawls (or Lacy) next year could include the Bills, Jets, and Eagles to name a few.

 

 

 

Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati Bengals):

 

Jeremy Hill kept his tiger stripes after playing college ball for the Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers to being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft just one year after they drafted North Carolina RB Giovanni Bernard.

Hill has had steady, but not stellar, production these past two years after his rookie season in which he rushed for 1,124 yards averaging over 5 yards per carry and rushing for 9 TD’s while catching 27 passes (38 targets) for another 215 yards.  He will need to step it up this year if he hopes to earn that next big contract which will be tough in a crowded backfield.

 

Potential Team for 2018:

 

With the Bengals signing RB Giovanni Bernard to a four-year deal last year and drafting RB Joe Mixon in the middle of the second round last year, I believe that Hill will be leaving the jungle for what he hopes to be brighter pastures.

Teams that are looking for that bruising back who is a TD vulture will certainly be in the mix to lure him to join their franchise.  One team that instantly comes to mind as a landing spot for Hill is the Patriots as they look to fill the void that LeGarrette Blount left behind if they do not feel they have that player on their current roster.  Other teams in the mix may be the Eagles and the Ravens.

 

 

Darren McFadden (Dallas Cowboys):

 

If ever an opportunity arose for Darren McFadden to earn his next big contract, it is today with the news of Cowboys starting RB Ezekiel Elliott being suspended for the first six games of the 2017 regular season pending appeal.  However the same holds true for his teammate RB Alfred Morris who is also in a contract year and the better overall back in my opinion but I cannot for the life of me figure out why the Cowboys insist on McFadden being the guy in Elliott’s absence.

In March of 2016, the Cowboys signed Morris to a two-year deal.  In March of 2017, the Cowboys re-signed McFadden to a one year deal. Both of those contracts expire at the end of the season so both will be looking to seize their time to shine on the field whenever they get their opportunity.

In any case, both McFadden and Morris are going to be out to prove their worth while the opportunity presents itself these first few games of the 2017 season.

 

Potential Team for 2018:

 

Aside from RB’s Ronnie Hillman and Rod Smith, the Cowboys are left with McFadden and Morris behind their starter Zeke so one would have to think that one of McFadden or Morris will be offered a new contract by the Cowboys based on what they show this year.  The other will likely be left looking for their next team who is wanting to give them an opportunity to crack their roster and possibly starting lineup.  Most any team looking for a running back next year, including those listed above, will most certainly give one of these backs an opportunity to showcase their skills in camp.

 

In Summary:

 

The running back market in the NFL today is not all that great making it tough for those looking for a new contract to have much of a bargaining chip.  I am anxious to see how this all plays out for these guys long term as there are quite a few other running backs hitting the market next year as well including, but not limited to, Rex Burkhead, Carlos Hyde, LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, Terrance West, Jerrick McKinnon, Darren Sproles and several other veteran running backs.