The Contract Years – Running Backs

As a dynasty owner, one must think beyond the upcoming season and more about the future of their franchise when planning your roster.  One important area of focus for every dynasty owner are players who are in a “contract year”.  The possibility of free agency not only impacts the player themselves, but their former and future team’s depth charts as well.

This series will begin with seven running backs who are entering a contract year and therefore should be under your watchful eye(s).


Matt Asiata

Adrian Peterson is set to resume his career in Minnesota after a season of nothing but drama off the field.  Matt Asiata would likely do well on a new team after showing promise and running extremely hard during AP’s absence in 2014.  Matt finished the season with just under 900 total yards, 44 catches and 10 TD’s in limited duty.  Not bad for a back that the team had no intention of using as their lead back for a majority of the season.

At 6/0 and 234 lbs, Asiata is a bigger back that has the ability to be a productive fantasy player if he is given the opportunity. But as long as AP is healthy and on the field, I am afraid his opportunities in Minnesota will be few and far between.

It would come as no surprise to me if the Vikings let Asiata go after this season.   Especially after they drafted the more athletic Jerrick McKinnon last year.

Potential team for 2016:  We all heard the rumors of Adrian Peterson possibly going to Dallas this offseason so why not Matt Asiata?  If Joseph Randle fails to take over the reigns as the lead back and Daren McFadden proves that can be counted on as nothing more than a situational back, then I could see Dallas being a great fit for Asiata.  Realistically it will be hard for Asiata to garner too much interest in what is currently a brutal RB market.


Doug Martin

Should the Bucs let Martin walk? If they do it will signify their confidence in Charles Sims and Martin will be looking for an opportunity with a new team.

Martin definitely has something to prove this year after finishing the 2013 season on IR and recording less than stellar results last year.  Martin will need to display the type of explosion and talent he did his rookie year (2012) if he wants to be resigned to a respectable contract.  The muscle hamster has suffered through numerous injuries and poor offensive line play the last 2 seasons, but if he can even come close to the 2000 yards from scrimmage, 49 receptions and 12 TD’s that he produced his rookie season, Tampa will have a very tough decision and Martin will certainly be a hot commodity in free agency.

Potential team for 2016:  The New England Patriots could be in the conversation of teams looking for a running back next year. LaGarette Blount is set to become a free agent and the team has questionable depth at the position.  Doug Martin could be a guy they look to for help if he hits free agency after a quality 2015 season.


Matt Forte 

I honestly do not believe the Bears are going to resign Forte next season. Chicago drafted Kadeem Carey in the middle of the 4th round in 2014 and Jeremy Langford in the early 4th this year, not to mention adding RBs Jaquizz Rodgers and Daniel Thomas.  Forte will turn 30 in December and the Bears may be hesitant to give him a long term deal.

If Langford or Carey show any kind of ability to handle the primary workload, I believe this will be Forte’s last year in Chicago which doesn’t necessarily mean bad things for Forte, but rather good things for whomever gets his touches next year.  Yes it would be a bold move by the Bears, but it’s not like they haven’t let players of similar value walk in the past. Keep an eye on RB Jeremy Langford he has looked very good in preseason action and may be the early favorite to replace Forte in 2016.

Potential team for 2016:  Forte seems like a good fit for the Colts since he has that “Joseph Addai” type skill set that was so productive in years’ past.  Forte is a bit taller than Addai, but his receiving skills would be a welcome addition to Andrew Luck and the Colts offense as they pursue the Lombardi Trophy. Frank Gore (32) just signed a three year contract with the Colts so it will likely take a serious injury or a major decline in production for the Colts to sign Forte. Money could also be an obstacle since the team’s main priority will be signing QB Andrew Luck to an extension and there may not be enough cap space left for a big FA signing.


Alfred Morris 

It may surprise some of you that ol’ Alfred has been one of the most consistent RB’s over the past 3 years.  He has averaged 1320 yards and 9 TD’s with a 4.50 YPC over those years, but he has gotten very little recognition or respect from fantasy owners.  I believe this is due to his lack of targets in the passing game which greatly reduces his overall value in PPR leagues.  Unless newly acquired rookie Matt Jones can show the ability to shoulder the load, I do not see the Redskins letting Morris walk. That said Jones has looked fantastic so far in the preseason so Morris certainly is not a lock to stick around.

RGIII’s ability to scramble and use play action certainly helped Morris take advantage of his own ability as a runner.  It seemed when RGIII was not under center that Morris was a bit more limited when it came to options with running lanes.

Potential team for 2016:  Hands down, the New York Jets would be a great fit for Alfred Morris.  He would be a great complement to a team that just added Brandon Marshall.  IF Geno Smith regains his role as the starting QB, his threat as a runner is similar to that of RGIII which opened up holes for Morris to do what he does best……run the ball! I know the Jets do not run the the same type of offense as the Redskins, but I feel that Morris is a talented runner who is scheme diverse.

Should the stable of Chris Ivory, Stevan Ridley, Bilal Powell and Zac Stacy fail to produce a consistent rusher, I could see the Jets making a move for Alfred next year.  Especially considering Ivory, Ridley and Powell are all set to become free agents next year as well.


Kendall Hunter

For years the Niners have been desperately attempting to find a complementary/replacement back to join Frank Gore in the backfield and now they are left with the unenviable task of filling the large void after Gore signed with the Colts in May.  As a matter of fact, with the exception of the 2008 NFL Draft, San Francisco has drafted a running back every year since they selected Frank Gore with the first pick in the third round (2005).  They have selected ten RB’s in the last ten NFL Drafts!

Here are the RB’s that the Niners have selected in the last ten years after selecting Gore:

  • 2006 – Michael Robinson 4.03
  • 2007 – Thomas Clayton 6.12
  • 2008 – No RB’s selected
  • 2009 – Glenn Coffee 3.10
  • 2010 – Anthony Dixon 6.04
  • 2011 – Kendall Hunter 4.18
  • 2012 – LaMichael James 2.29
  • 2013 – Marcus Lattimore 4.34
  • 2014 – Carlos Hyde 2.25 and Trey Millard 7.30
  • 2015 – Mike Davis 4.27


This list does not include RBs Deshaun Foster and Reggie Bush whom they acquired outside of the NFL Draft.  Hunter has flashed on occasion in the NFL but he has suffered through several injuries including an ACL tear that happened on the first day of training camp last year that cost him the entire  2014 season.

Potential team for 2016:  Hunter is the primary backup to Reggie Bush as the pass catching back so there is a chance the Niners will resign him.  But if they choose not to, the Carolina Panthers are likely to be looking for help at RB next year unless Jonathan Stewart proves he can stay healthy or they are confident they have his replacement in rookie Cameron Artis-Payne (whom is having a solid training camp).  Even if Stewart does stay healthy this year and/or Artis-Payne shows that he can be counted on in the event of an injury, the Panthers have little depth at the position with Fozzy Whitaker and Jordan Todman filling out the depth chart.


 CJ Anderson 

It will be interesting to see how things shake out in Denver this year.  Anderson is the back to own today after coming off a very successful season that resulted in a trip to the Pro Bowl.  Ronnie Hillman is also in a contract year and has received praise from head coach Gary Kubiak after the Broncos first pre-season game.  Montee Ball is returning from a groin injury that landed him on IR and is under contract through the 2016 season.

Potential team for 2016:  I don’t see the Broncos letting this guy walk when he becomes a restricted free agent next year.  As an undrafted free agent in 2013,  Anderson suffered a season ending injury in the preseason which delayed his opportunity in the NFL. CJ took full advantage the following season and Anderson seems to have a firm grip on the lion’s share of the workload as we enter the 2015 season. It seems that  the starting RB job is his to lose at this point.


Lamar Miller 

Ok, this is one player I am really reluctant to predict his future, but don’t want to take the easy way out and just ignore him.  So let me ask… is there a reason why the Miami Dolphins picked up LaMichael James last year and drafted Jay Ajayi in the fifth round this year?

I realize Ajayi is a high risk, high reward rookie prospect, but for whatever reason, the Dolphins refuse to give Miller the opportunities that I, and many others, feel he deserves. That all may change this season as Miller flourished in his first year in OC Bill Lazor’s offense.  Miller finished the 2014 season with almost 1300 total yards, 9 TD’s and 38 catches. The team remains concerned about his size and ability to carry a heavier load, but I think he has earned the chance to see if he can stay healthy.

Potential team for 2016:  I just don’t see how Miami can let Miller be signed by another team next year. I think that Miller would need to suffer a serious injury or significant regression in order for the Dolphins to feel like Damien Williams or Jay Ajayi could step up and fill his shoes. Both are quality backs that have their upside, but not the explosive element that is a big part of Miller’s game.

Ajayi is the former Boise State running back who was considered one of the best all-purpose running backs in the 2015 draft class before concerns about his knee surfaced.  The knee condition that scared NFL teams from drafting Ajayi is a bone on bone issue per NFL Network’s Mike Mayock. When combined with his extremely heavy college work load teams were hesitant on drafting him with the thoughts that the knee condition would limit the length of his career. Ajayi has been banged up and unable to participate in much of the 2015 preseason which has really hurt his chances for snaps. Damien Williams has been playing very well and Ajayi may struggle to see the field early in the year, barring an injury. If Ajayi is unable to show he is capable of being a 3 down back Miller may very well be resigned.

If Miller were to hit the FA market he would draw significant interest from pretty much any team in need of a running back as he would be a good fit in just about any NFL offense.

There are many additional talented NFL running backs entering a contract year, but the players I mentioned are just a few to get your wheels turning.  Some of the other notable backs who are in contract years are: Khiry Robinson, Fred Jackson, James Starks and Dan Herron.