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Teams that were close to the playoffs can make that one signing that clinches a spot the next year, while others that made the playoffs can look for the one move that could propel them to a Super Bowl.
The signing period for teams doesn't start until March, but executives have already started doing their homework and there are a number of players that are being targeted by teams with needs.
The running back position has some depth in the free agent market, with names like Peyton Hillis, Reggie Bush, Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Ivory hitting the market. New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is also an addition to the list, as the team cut him this week to help with salary cap issues.
Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams
Jackson has been a workhorse for the Rams since coming into the league, playing in at least 14 games in seven of his nine years with the team Jackson is about to hit the 30-year-old mark, which usually is a sign of breaking down for running backs. He has a player option, but with Jeff Fisher using Daryl Richardson for long stretches during the second half of the year, both sides will be looking for a change. Jackson has been overworked, amassing 2,395 carries during his career, including eight straight seasons with at least 237 carries.
Jackson rushed for 1,042 yards this season, his lowest total since 2008, while scoring just four touchdowns. Jackson has been one of the most consistent backs in the NFL, rushing for at least 1,000 yards in every season in the NFL apart from his rookie year. He will leave the teams with 10,135 yards and 56 touchdowns and is likely to sign with a team like the Kansas City Chiefs or the New York Jets, who are looking to upgrade at running back.
Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick really knows how to find hidden gems, which is exactly what happened with Woodhead a couple years ago after the Jets waived him. Woodhead was perfect for the Patriots; system, running in space and proving to be skilled catching the ball out of the backfield.
Woodhead has amassed over 1,000 rushing and receiving yards and was solid catching the ball this season, making 40 receptions for 446 yards and three touchdowns. The fact that Belichick gave Woodhead a chance is the reason he is lining up for a sizeable payday. He won't make anything close to elite money, but it will be more than an undrafted running back from Chadron State. Has ever seen.
Belichick has said that there is a chance he could be back with the team, but it is likely that he will move on after the emergence of Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden.
Cedric Benson, Green Bay Packers
Benson had some solid years with the Bengals before joining the Packers for the 2012 season and he was expected to help shore up a running game that has been lacking over the past few years. Benson didn't get the chance to do much, as he suffered Lisfranc fracture after playing in five games. He rushed for 248 yards on 71 carries and one touchdown while with the Packers and the team turned to Alex Green and James Starks to pick up the slack. Benson has expressed interest in staying in Green Bay and the Packers likely will want to bring him back after he rushed for over 1,000 yards in his last three seasons in Cinncinati.
Other solid free agent RB options:
-Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys
-Brandon Jacobs, San Francisco 49ers
-La'Rod Stephens-Howling, Arizona Cardinals
-Chris Rainey, Pittsburgh Steelers