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Free agency preview | Running back

Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs rushes during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs rushes during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.

The start of the new league year is drawing closer by the day, and the Washington Commanders have plenty of resources to turn Dan Quinn and Adam Peters' vision for the roster into a reality.

The official salary cap number for each team isn't public knowledge. There are several websites that offer projections, and many of them have different calculations. What everyone can agree on is that the Commanders have some of the most available cap space this offseason. And with the salary cap moving up to $255.4 million, that creates even more room for them to add new players.

So, in anticipation of free agency opening on March 13 at 4 p.m., is going to look at some of the top players set to become available at each position. We'll start off at running back, which is one of the most stacked positions when it comes to veteran talent.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs for yardage during their NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Derrick Henry

Yes, Derrick Henry is one of the oldest running backs set to hit the market and is one of the last to play with such an old-school style. And yet, he's still one of the top players at his position.

Henry, a four-time Pro Bowler and one of the only running backs in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards, has put together a dominant stretch since 2018, rushing for at least 1,000 yards in five of the last six seasons. He's had double-digit rushing touchdowns in all but two seasons of his career, and while he doesn't have quite as much breakaway speed as he used to, he remains one of the toughest players to bring down. He's finished in the top 10 of yards after contact every season since 2018.

It's reasonable to have concerns about Henry's workload and how that will affect his usage going forward. He's led the league in carries in four of the last five seasons, and the only reason he didn't do so in 2021 was because of a foot injury that kept him out for half the season. Tennessee's offense also revolved around Henry, and assuming he goes elsewhere, he wouldn't be the only weapon like he was at times with the Titans.

Henry probably isn't considered a long-term option anymore, but having a Hall of Fame running back is never a bad thing.

Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) runs against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Josh Jacobs

If you're looking for a younger running back with more tread on his tires, then Josh Jacobs is one of, if not the best option out there.

Jacobs was inactive for the final four games of the 2023 season, which prevented him from getting his fourth 1,000-yard season, but Jacobs was a force in 2022, leading the league with 1,653 yards and getting First Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl nods. He forced 90 missed tackles that season, a league high, and had 41 runs of at least 10 yards.

Like Henry, Jacobs is a volume carrier with at least 200 rushing attempts in all six of his NFL seasons. He's also never scored a receiving touchdown, although he's caught 77.6% of his passes for 1,448 yards in his career. Depending on where he goes, the offense likely won't solely go through him.

It'll have to be the right situation, but Jacobs should be back to rushing for 1,000-seasons again in a new home.

Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (20) runs with the ball during an NFL wild-card playoff football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, in Arlington, Texas. (Michael Owens via AP)

Tony Pollard

Let's get into some running backs that Commanders fans know a little better. The Cowboys elected not to place the franchise tag on Tony Pollard, meaning he's going to see free agency for the first time in his career.

Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott used to share the Cowboys' backfield, but once the team decided to move on from the latter, Pollard and his versatility shone at a more consistent rate. He's coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, including a career-high 252 carries in 2023. During that two-year span, he's averaged 4.6 yards per carry and accounted for 102 first downs. The Cowboys are usually stacked with offensive talent, but Pollard has one of the most consistent pieces.

Even if the Commanders decide not to bring back Antonio Gibson, they're still in a good spot with Brian Robinson Jr. and Chris Rodriguez putting together strong performances in their respective roles. If Pollard were to join the Commanders, it would likely be in a rotational role. Still, he's one of the more experienced backs with 1,300 scrimmage yards in each of the last two seasons.

Philadelphia Eagles running back D'Andre Swift (0) runs the ball during an NFL Wild Card playoff football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won 32-9. (Perry Knotts via AP)

D'Andre Swift

D'Andre Swift was looking for a new home around this time last year, and it seems like he'll be on the move again in 2024.

Swift was a dynamic weapon for three years with Detroit Lions, and the Commanders got a taste of what he can do to defenses back in 2022, when he had 87 yards and a touchdown against them. In the 40 games he played for the Lions, he amassed 25 touchdowns and 2,878 total yards.

It seemed like a perfect match when Swift signed with the Eagles, and it ended up being Swift's best performance. He hit 1,049 yards in 2023 – his previous best was 617 in 2021 -- on top of catching 39 passes for 214 yards.

Swift might want to remain with the Eagles and play for his hometown team, but if he ends up hitting the open market, there should be some teams interested in his services.

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) carries the ball on a run play during an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Inglewood, Calif. The Chiefs defeated the Chargers, 13-12. (Ryan Kang via AP)

Austin Ekeler

It seems like Austin Ekeler has flirted with free agency for years, and while Jim Harbaugh has said that the Chargers would "love to have him back," it's likely that he will play for another team in 2024.

Though Ekeler is an older running back, he fits the bill of what modern running backs look like in the NFL. He's just as potent of a runner as he is as a receiver, accounting for 3,884 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. The 2023 season wasn't one of his most productive seasons, but accounting for over 1,000 scrimmage yards is still a solid season for any running back.

There will be several factors that dictate Ekeler's next team. Teams like Washington, which already has two running backs they like on the roster, will need to decide whether they want to make Ekeler their top option. Conversely, Ekeler will need to determine whether he wants to be a contributor, rather than a starter. Regardless, Ekeler is one of the most talented players at the position and would another wrinkle to any team.

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