Mon Feb 26 4:27pm ET
Field Level Media
The free-agent market for running backs this offseason is expected to be extraordinarily deep, with no franchise tags likely for numerous running backs, including Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley and Tony Pollard, according to a report by ESPN Monday.
With a franchise tag cost of $14,149,200, the Las Vegas Raiders are not expected to give it to Jacobs but are expected to try to re-sign the 2022 NFL rushing champion.
Jacobs has 5,545 rushing yards in 73 games since being drafted by the then-Oakland Raiders in the first round in 2018, including 1,101 yards from scrimmage (805 rushing, 296 receiving) and six touchdowns in 13 starts in 2023.
The New York Giants are reportedly unlikely to use the franchise tag on Barkley, which would cost $12,109,200.
The Giants are, however, expected to explore a deal with Barkley, who at the end of last season said he was "numb" to the possibility of being hit with the franchise tag for a second time and was skipping the Giants' open-door policy exit interviews.
"I went through the whole process last year. We talked more than enough last year, to be honest. I'm gonna let my agents handle that," Barkley said after the last game of the season.
Barkley started all 14 games he played in last season, rushing for 962 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught 41 passes for 280 yards and four scores.
The Dallas Cowboys are also expected to pass on a $12,109,200 franchise tag for Pollard, according to ESPN. The Cowboys took Pollard in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. In 79 career regular-season games (23 starts), Pollard has 3,621 rushing yards, 1,319 receiving yards and 28 combined touchdowns.
Other running backs expected in the free-agent market include A.J. Dillon, J.K. Dobbins, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Gus Edwards, Austin Ekeler, Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, Zack Moss and Devin Singletary.
Although several top running backs complained last offseason about being underpaid, they aren't likely to grab enormous sums of money, with many teams still unwilling to pay big for running backs, despite a major increase in the NFL salary cap this year.
The league's free-agent signing period opens March 13.
First Base Preview
It's pretty obvious, but the Kansas City Chiefs need more viable, reliable wide receivers this offseason, especially a veteran or two to help the offense reclaim its juggernaut status despite just winning back-to-back Super Bowl championships. The Chiefs still have an elite quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and two strong pass-catchers in tight end Travis Kelce and wideout Rashee Rice, but the continual arms race in the AFC is only going to intensify this offseason as the Chargers, Raiders and Broncos look to knock the Chiefs off their perch. The Chiefs would be wise to counter by acquiring better receivers for Mahomes, either through free agency or the draft. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is one of the obvious salary cap cuts that the Chiefs should be able to replace while improving at the position.
If the situation presents itself in this year's NFL draft, the New York Giants would be open to pulling a trigger on a quarterback, according to ESPN New York's Jordan Raanan. Current starting QB Daniel Jones (knee), who was the sixth overall pick in 2019, has rarely been healthy in his five seasons and is rehabbing from a torn ACL this offseason. If head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen aren't comfortable putting all their chips on the table with Jones as the long-term future at the position, they could look to this year's draft to find Jones' potential replacement. The G-Men have the sixth overall pick and two second-round selections in which they could use to take a rookie signal-caller. It doesn't sound like the Giants have much confidence in Jones moving forward, and neither should fantasy managers.
The Las Vegas Raiders are seriously looking for an upgrade at the quarterback position at this week's NFL combine as we approach the 2024 NFL draft. They have nine picks over seven rounds in this year's draft and will likely take a crack at securing a franchise signal-caller who has eluded them for decades. The 2024 QB class is considered one of the deepest in years, although the Raiders are unlikely to have access to the consensus top-four QBs -- Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels and J.J. McCarthy -- at 13th overall in the first round. That spot might also be too high to reach on Michael Penix or Bo Nix. If the Raiders really like one of the top-four QB prospects in this year's draft, they may be compelled to trade up to the top of the draft in order to find a significant upgrade over Aidan O'Connell, who impressed in his rookie season in 2023.
The Los Angeles Rams are expected to hire former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai in a senior defensive role, according to sources. The move will give head coach Sean McVay's staff more experience, as Desai is a two-time NFL defensive coordinator. Desai was demoted from his position in Philadelphia midway through last season and was eventually fired after the season. He was the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears in 2021 and was an associate head coach for the Seattle Seahawks in 2022. In Los Angeles, Desai will be working under new defensive coordinator Chris Shula, who is replacing Raheem Morris. Morris left the Rams to become the new head coach of the Atlanta Falcons this offseason.
The Los Angeles Chargers are expected to let impending free-agent running back Austin Ekeler explore free agency in 2024, according to league sources, which means they won't use the franchise tag on him. Ekeler was one of the biggest early round fantasy busts in 2023, as the 28-year-old finished with 628 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 179 carries in 14 games in his seventh year with the Chargers. He also had 51 receptions (74 targets) for 436 yards and one touchdown through the air. Ekeler has never had 1,000 yards rushing in his career and could face an uncertain future if he leaves LA. He's not going to be a first-round fantasy pick in fall drafts, but Ekeler has bounce-back potential if he's healthy and in a significant role, whether it be with the Chargers or another team.
The Dallas Cowboys are not expected to use the franchise tag on impending free-agent running back Tony Pollard this year at a cost of $12.109 million, according to sources. The Cowboys gave Pollard lead-back duties in 2023, and he responded with 1,005 rushing yards on 252 attempts (career-low 4.0 yards per carry) with six touchdowns while adding a career-high 55 receptions for 311 yards and no TDs through the air in 17 regular-season contests. Pollard looked better late in the season and wasn't really himself for most of the year after recovering from a significant leg injury in 2022. The 26-year-old's fantasy value for the 2024 season will depend on where he's playing, but Pollard didn't do much to show other clubs that he can be trusted as a workhorse back.
The Tennessee Titans won't use their franchise tag on impending free-agent running back Derrick Henry this year, according to league sources. With a new coaching staff coming in this offseason, it wasn't expected that the Titans would make much of an effort to retain King Henry as he heads into his age-30 season. The former second-rounder in 2016 out of Alabama has been a Pro Bowler in four of the last five seasons, although he showed some signs of decline in 2023. He had a league-high 280 carries for 1,167 yards (career-low-tying 4.2 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns, adding 28 catches for 214 yards and no touchdowns as a pass-catcher. Henry may not age gracefully, but he should still have plenty of fantasy appeal in 2024 with a contending team.
The New York Giants will speak with impending free-agent running back Saquon Barkley and explore a new deal with him, but they are unlikely to place the franchise tag on him for $12.109 million in 2024, according to sources. The 27-year-old could very well hit the open market when the new league year opens in March, but there's no denying that Barkley is the essence of New York's offense when he's healthy. The two-time Pro Bowler took a step back in 2023 and missed three games due to injury, finishing with 962 rushing yards on 247 carries (3.9 yards per carry) and six touchdowns while adding 41 catches for 280 yards and four more TDs. Barkley could have a decent market if he reaches free agency, but he'll continue to be a risk/reward RB1 due to his extensive injury history.
Dynasty | The Raiders are reportedly unlikely to use the franchise tag on running back Josh Jacobs. Dynasty Analysis: The Raiders didn't sign the 2022 rushing leader to a long-term deal at this time last season and likely don't see that as a decision to regret. Jacobs struggled last year for a variety of reasons and saw his rushing total get cut in half. While there are a lot of fingers to point in terms of the reasons why, the numbers are still the numbers. Las Vegas reportedly wants him back but are unwilling to break the bank to do so. Jacobs will enter the free agent market that's loaded with ball carriers, so it's going to be interesting to see just what he can secure. In terms of dynasty value, things are clearly in flux for him at the moment.
Dynasty | The Giants are unlikely to use the franchise tag on running back Saquon Barkley. Dynasty Analysis: With a huge crop of running backs hitting free agency, the Giants are looking like a team unwilling to pony up north of $12 million to keep their star runner. While they could still bring him back on a long-term deal, it looks as if Barkley is going to control his own destiny for the first time in his career. While still dynamic with the ball in his hands, Barkley is reaching the age where running backs decline and his dynasty value will be purely contingent on where he lands, though his days as an elite asset are likely over.
Dynasty | The Titans will not use the franchise tag on running back Derrick Henry. Dynasty Analysis: This should come as no surprise as Henry took the mic at the end of the last Titans game to say goodbye to the only fan base he's ever known. Henry has had a dominant run since entering the league in 2016 but his age (30) indicates the end is near. Dynasty managers are clearly hoping he has one or two more solid years left as he looks to latch in with a contender like Dallas or Baltimore. Time will tell on this one but Henry should be looked upon as a solid contending team target and clearly a player to move on from if your dynasty team isn't in contention.
Dynasty | Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is likely to hit the free agent market. Dynasty Analysis: Ekeler rushed 179 times for 628 yards and five touchdowns while averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per carry, becoming one of the most disappointing players in dynasty leagues last season. The production level fell off a cliff for one of the most consistent players in dynasty leagues and the concern level for Ekeler is high based on his age and massive decline. It's highly likely he finds himself on a team as a receiving complement but also just as likely he's not a bell cow runner at this stage in his career. His landing spot will be crucial to truly evaluate where he needs to ranked but Ekeler's days as an elite RB1 are likely over.
Dynasty | Cowboys running back Tony Pollard will likely not receive the franchise tag from Dallas. Dynasty Analysis: This really isn't a shock considering Pollard rushed for just two more yards in 2023 than in 2022 but also had 59 more carries to do it. His yards per carry averaged took a nosedive from 5.2 to 4.0 and Pollard simply didn't look like a running back capable of being a true three-down option. While he'll find a healthy market out there, the chance of him landing a job as a true bell cow seem pretty slim. Pollard's value will likely come out of the wash as that of a RB2 instead of a RB1 when all is said and done and the "sell high" window has likely closed as a result.
University of Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze is expected to take part in on-field work at the 2024 NFL Combine this week. Wideouts will take the field on Saturday, March 2. This news comes after reports that Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers will not participate in on-field drills. Odunze is the consensus No. 3 wide receiver prospect in the 2024 class, so he has a lot to gain in Indianapolis, given the absences of the top two wideouts. Odunze caught 92 passes for 1,650 yards and 13 touchdowns for the National Champion runner-up Huskies in 2023. He is projected to be drafted as high as the No. 5 pick, and he's likely to be taken no later than pick No. 15. He's a clear first-rounder in 2024 fantasy football rookie drafts.
LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers will not participate in on-field drills at the 2024 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, though he will be in attendance for interviews. He will wait until LSU's Pro Day on March 27 to demonstrate his athleticism for NFL scouts. The 20-year-old is the consensus No. 1 or No. 2 wide receiver in the 2024 NFL Draft class, and he's likely to be a top-10 pick in April. Nabers caught 89 passes for 1,569 yards and 14 touchdowns from 2023 Heisman-winning quarterback Jayden Daniels in his final season in Baton Rouge. In single-quarterback formats, he is likely to be a top-three selection in the majority of 2024 fantasy football rookie drafts.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs is unlikely to be franchise-tagged this offseason, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The organization will attempt to re-sign the 2022 NFL leading rusher, but there's a chance he will hit the open market. The Raiders placed the franchise tag on Jacobs last March and ultimately offered him a one-year deal worth up to $12 million. After a 1,653-yard rushing season in 2022, Jacobs rushed for just 805 yards on 3.5 yards per carry in 2023. He showed clear signs of regression in his fifth NFL season, so no team is likely to break the bank for a player at a devalued position. Either way, Jacobs' offseason movement is worth monitoring ahead of the 2024 NFL season. He should have fantasy value whether he stays put or lands somewhere else.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan interviewed Brandon Staley for the team's vacant defensive coordinator position. Staley was relieved of his duties as the Los Angeles Chargers head coach after posting a 24-24 record in three seasons with zero playoff victories. Meanwhile, the 49ers fired former defensive coordinator Steve Wilks after an up-and-down run in the 2024 postseason. Staley made a name for himself as the Rams defensive coordinator in 2020. The Rams were No. 1 in yards per play allowed (4.6) and No. 2 in points per game allowed (19.3) under his direction. However, his defenses with the Chargers were far from impressive, which ultimately led to his firing. The 49ers also interviewed defensive pass game coordinator Nick Sorensen for the job, and safeties coach Daniel Bullocks is scheduled for an interview later this week. Whoever lands the job will get to work with elite players at all three levels of the defense in 2024.
Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. has decided to skip the NFL scouting combine altogether this week. Harrison is the consensus top receiver prospect for the upcoming NFL draft. The 21-year-old is also without an agent, and he's not expected to do any testing at Ohio State's pro day in March, either. Barring something drastic happening in the next month, it would be a surprise if Harrison falls outside of the first five picks in this year's NFL draft. His final landing spot in the draft will play a big factor in Harrison's fantasy value in his rookie season, but even if he ends up in a less-than-ideal situation, he should have significant upside and a starting role right away in 2024.
The Kansas City Chiefs and head coach Andy Reid are expected to begin negotiations in the coming weeks on a new contract that NFL sources think should make him the highest-paid coach in football. General manager Brett Veach is also in line for a new deal, replacing the final two years on the contracts that both Reid and Veach signed after the 2019 season when the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV. Kansas City has now won back-to-back championships, making them the first team to repeat since the 2003-04 Patriots. After beating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII, Reid confirmed he would return in pursuit of the league's first-ever three-peat. Reid is believed to rank around eighth among head coaches in average annual value on his contract, but that's about to change. Veach, meanwhile, is believed to be one of the NFL's lowest-paid GMs.
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, one of this year's top draft prospects, plans to throw at his pro day on March 27 instead of at this week's NFL scouting combine, according to sources. Daniels will be in Indianapolis this week for interviews and meetings with teams, but he will not work out at all. USC's Caleb Williams, the consensus top overall pick for the upcoming draft, also will not throw at the combine this week. The 23-year-old won the Heisman Trophy last year, which has vaulted him to No. 3 behind Williams and North Carolina's Drake Maye in the QB rankings for the upcoming draft. Daniels has plenty of upside at the next level, but his fantasy value for the long term will all depend on where he lands in the draft.