The RB position remains one of the most pressing needs for the Buccaneers as they prepare for the 2018 season. With Doug Martin being released, that leaves three backs on the roster. Jacquizz Rodger, Charles Sims, and the leading rusher on the Bucs this past season Peyton Barber. The Bucs could also lose Sims as he is UFA.
None of these backs have proven that they can be the feature back for a full 16 game season or even carry the ball 15-20 times a game for a full season.
The Bucs will no doubt take a back in the NFL draft in April. But there will also be a lot of good backs that will be available on March 14th as the free agency period will open up.
The best RB on the market without question is Le‘Veon Bell of the Steelers who will be a free agent. He is the complete back averaging 4.7 yards per carry and is a tremendous pass catcher out of the backfield. He will set a new salary record for a running back when he signs his new contract. probably somewhere in the 12-15 million dollar a year range. He will not be getting that kind of money in Tampa, so lets move on to some other options.
Dion Lewis of the New England Patriots will hit the market. Again the problem with Lewis is his durability. When healthy, Lewis is a very good back as he proved this season averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 895 yards overall. Lewis also is a decent receiver as he caught 32 passes out of the backfield this season. On the upside, lewis is just 27 years old and due to his injuries still has a lot of mileage left. Would be a good pick-up for the Bucs as he would be the true dual threat purpose back the Bucs have lacked in their offense.
Carlos Hyde of the 49ers will also be available. Hyde has spent his entire career in San Francisco and has managed to average around 4 yards per carry. Hyde has never had the luxury of playing behind a really good offensive line and the QB play of the 49ers has been suspect until the Jimmy Garroppolo acquistion. Could Tampa be the right fit for Carlos Hyde?
Hyde and Dion Lewis are the best backs on the market after Bell, and both would be a great fit for the Bucs.
The next tier of backs starts with Isaiah Crowell of the Cleveland Browns. Depite their won loss record, the Browns have recently had very good offensive lines. Crowell has not taken advantage of that and has had a somewhat disappointing career so far. Crowell ran for 852 yards this season and is averaging 4.2 yards per carry for his career.
Rex Burkhead of the Patriots. Just OK. Dosen’t excite me much. Ok runner, OK receiver
Jerick McKinnon of the Vikings. Poor runner. Very good pass receiver. Had 51 catches this season. The Bucs already have that pass receiving threat out of the backfield in Charles Sims.
LeGarrette Blount at 31 years of age is available. He has already called Tampa home once before from 2010-2013. Bucs fans will remember him for his breakout rookie season in 2010 when he rushed for over 1.000 yards. Blount does not have a lot of mileage left so this would be a short term fix.
One name that is intriguing is Jeremy Hill of the Bengals. Just 25 years old, Hill had a breakout rookie season in 2014 when he rushed for over 1100 yards and every year since, his production has dwindled. He is now a FA and will not be back in Cinncinnati. Hill has good size at 6-1 230 and is a solid North-south runner. Good route runner and decent pass catching ability. A change of scnenery should re-ignite his career. Would look nice in a Bucs uniform in 2018.
Without a solid running game as we found out this past season, this offense will never reach its full potential.