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Barkley, Ekeler, Henry, Jacobs, Pollard to become free agents

Last offseason, the running back market devalued as some marquee names failed to secure contract extensions or were offered the franchise tag. Jonathan Taylor was the only notable running back who succeeded after agreeing to a three-year, $42 million contract extension.

A year later, several top-notch running backs will be hitting the free-agent market, as shared by B/R Gridiron. The New York Giants announced that they won’t apply the tag to Saquon Barkley, allowing him to become a free agent. Barkley had 247 carries for 962 rushing yards and six touchdowns. The two-time Pro Bowler added 280 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Raiders won’t apply the tag to Josh Jacobs. They offered him the franchise tag during the 2023 offseason, but he ended up signing a one-year deal up to $12 million. He finished the 2023 season with 233 carries for 805 yards and six touchdowns. He led the league the year before with 1,653 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

Tony Pollard played the 2023 season under the franchise tag, finishing with 1,005 rushing yards and six touchdowns. The Dallas Cowboys won’t offer him a second consecutive tag because it will be subject to a 20 percent increase from the $11.9 million rate for running backs.

Likewise, Austin Ekeler won’t return to the Los Angeles Chargers after the team refuses to engage him in contract extension talks. He went over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in four of his seven seasons with the Chargers.

Finally, 2020 Offensive Player of the Year Derrick Henry is set to become a free agent after delivering what became a farewell address at the end of their regular-season finale. The Tennessee Titans won’t assign him the tag after a season with 1,167 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

These free-agent running backs will spice up the negotiation period once it starts on March 11, two days before the opening of the 2024 NFL calendar year.

-Lance Fernandez

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