In today's NFL, the running back position isn't necessarily a top priority. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of big names still suiting up there. In fact, few positions possess as many proven starters going into 2023 free agency. And with something like a dozen clubs set to be in the market for starting-caliber production on the ground, plenty of activity awaits.
With that in mind, we decided to play matchmaker for some of this offseason's top free agent backs, and some of 2023's most likely RB suitors. Here are proposed landing spots for 12 of the biggest names going into the market:
Proposed team: Bears
The Giants would surely welcome him back as the focal point of their offense, but QB Daniel Jones will likely cost a pretty penny, and Chicago has all kinds of money to spend as it prepares to build around Justin Fields (or another hotshot QB prospect). The Bears, who have No. 1 back David Montgomery set to hit free agency, are built to lean on the ground game. Pairing Barkley with Fields would be just as, if not more tantalizing, than when the back revived his explosive form alongside Jones in 2022.
Proposed team: Lions
The Raiders may tag their breakout starter, but Josh McDaniels has leaned on a committee approach before. The Lions, meanwhile, could lose 17-touchdown man Jamaal Williams to free agency, and former second-rounder D'Andre Swift has yet to stay healthy. With a decent chunk of change at their disposal, and early draft capital to address other spots, Detroit could juice up its balanced offense by spending big for Jacobs, who registers as a potential Dan Campbell favorite for his hard-nosed style.
Proposed team: Dolphins
The Cowboys would like him back, but they've got Ezekiel Elliott business to sort through first. The Dolphins, on the other hand, have all but one of their backs projected to hit the market, including Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson. Head coach Mike McDaniel leans on the run, and Pollard is the kind of multipurpose weapon who could aid Tua Tagovailoa -- or whomever is under center -- in different ways, even coming off an injury of his own.
Proposed team: Panthers
Sanders loves Philly, but the Eagles aren't typically in the business of shelling out top dollar for the position, and their Super Bowl bid featured more of Kenneth Gainwell. Coming off a career year as a more physical, traditional ball-carrier, Sanders would fit in nicely in Carolina, where ex-Eagles coordinator Frank Reich now employs Duce Staley, Sanders' old position coach. The Panthers still have Chuba Hubbard, but top back D'Onta Foreman is scheduled to hit the market as well.
Proposed team: Broncos
With the younger Khalil Herbert in tow, the Bears don't necessarily need to overspend for Montgomery, even with tons of money at their disposal. (Plus, in this exercise, we have them adding Saquon Barkley as a more explosive upgrade.) Denver has a top back of its own in Javonte Williams, but he's expected to be sidelined into 2023 due to a knee injury, and new coach Sean Payton would probably embrace a tough, proven fill-in -- a guy who does all the little things well -- to help lessen Russell Wilson's burden.
Proposed team: Bengals
The Lions are well positioned to upgrade (as we have them doing with Josh Jacobs), and while Williams was a no-nonsense red zone star in 2022, he's never been a consistent full-timer. That's why the Bengals could be an ideal destination; Joe Mixon is a potential cap casualty atop the depth chart, while No. 2 Samaje Perine is bound for free agency. As a potential third-down option who splits hand-offs from Joe Burrow, he's an ideal short-term addition for a contender.
Proposed team: Giants
Assuming Saquon Barkley cashes in elsewhere, the Giants will need a new featured back behind Daniel Jones. While Singletary is far from the physical specimen that Barkley is, he's been one of the steadiest starters of the last four years, quietly producing as a dual threat in a Bills offense relatively averse to a standard ground game. General manager Joe Schoen helped draft Singletary in Buffalo, and head coach Brian Daboll also worked with him for three seasons prior to arriving in New York.
Proposed team: Cowboys
His name was bigger than his numbers in 2022, which arguably already makes him a logical fit for Dallas. Truth be told, the Cowboys could use a dual threat of his caliber with Ezekiel Elliott's future up in the air and Tony Pollard bound for free agency. Even if Elliott sticks, Hunt would profile as an upper-level No. 2 who's proven he can break off big plays in a limited role.
Proposed team: Raiders
The Patriots will probably have little issue letting him test the market with Rhamondre Stevenson in tow. And if the Raiders lose Josh Jacobs to a massive payday, they'll need some veteran insurance alongside Zamir White. Harris has been solid when healthy, but staying on the field has been the issue. Josh McDaniels does know him from their shared time in New England.
Proposed team: Eagles
The Eagles probably aren't gonna commit serious resources to the position assuming they lose Miles Sanders, but Wilson is the kind of plug-and-play vet who could split touches with Kenneth Gainwell out of the gate. Availability has been a concern, but the ex-49ers standout proved in 2022 that he can thrive in just about any run-based system after relocating to the Dolphins.
Proposed team: Chiefs
If anyone is destined to stay where they're at, it's probably McKinnon, who settled in as Patrick Mahomes' go-to safety valve out of the backfield in 2022. His market probably won't be wild going on 31 with an injury history, but Kansas City should value his presence as a continued mentor for Isiah Pacheco, and he's been public about his desire to stick around as well.
Proposed team: Bills
Buffalo is a candidate to make a big splash at the position in an effort to rejuvenate a hard-nosed ground game behind Josh Allen, but assuming they don't outbid more financially gifted clubs for the likes of, say, Josh Jacobs, Foreman could be a cost-effective consolation prize. He's a massive presence with less wear and tear, plus above-average production as a starter the last 1.5 seasons, and could pair nicely with the third-down upside of James Cook.