Free Agency 2024: Ideal Landing Spot for Top Running Backs

While 2023 was a rough offseason for the running back, the upcoming free agency period in the NFL appears to have some big-name backs that should be available on the...

While 2023 was a rough offseason for the running back, the upcoming free agency period in the NFL appears to have some big-name backs that should be available on the open market.  The pool of available backs looks like it will be flooded with notable names, such as Austin Ekeler and D’Andre Swift, but for our purposes here we’ll focus on the big three guys that at least in theory still have some bellcow years left in them.   Assuming they don’t return to their former teams (because that’s no fun), let’s find their ideal fantasy football landing spots.


Saquon Barkley: Houston Texans


Before we continue, I must say, as a Giants fan it’s uncomfortable to say Saquon’s best landing spot is somewhere else than in Big Blue.  For his sake, however, and for fantasy football, the Houston Texans are the most intriguing match for him.   Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, who comes from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree that tends to employ running back-friendly offenses, helped Devin Singletary become a viable fantasy option last year.  Imagine what he can do with one of the most talented running backs in the league in Saquon.  From the Texans’ point of view, why not take advantage of CJ Stroud playing on a rookie contract and add as much star-level talent to the roster as they can?  Sure, their division isn’t so daunting. But if they have ambitions of legitimately competing with the Chiefs in the AFC, adding Barkley should absolutely be considered.


Derrick Henry: Dallas Cowboys


Yes, Derrick Henry has reached the dreaded age of 30, and his 2023 season was somewhat disappointing by his standards. But man, would he add an element to the Cowboys’ offense that they sure did not have last year.   Henry still accumulated 1,167 rushing yards and found the end zone 12 times in 2023, numbers that he is more than capable of reaching in a potent Cowboys offense.  The Cowboys were just 12th in red zone efficiency last year, so what better guy to add than Henry to improve in that area?

Joining the Cowboys would mean defenses could no longer load the box to slow him down.  If you’re Henry, coming off two straight losing seasons, a team with Super Bowl aspirations possessing weapons on offense who can take the defensive attention away seems like a good fit.  According to Ian Hartitz of, with Tony Pollard as an impending free agent,  94% of the Cowboys’ total carries and carries within the five-yard line from 2023 are available for the taking.  For a team that’s as “all-in” as the Cowboys are, they would have no reason not to get every ounce out of Henry that they could, which would be perfect for fantasy managers.  Plus. you know signing Henry would fire up Mike McCarthy, a noted lover of running the ball.


Josh Jacobs: Cincinnati Bengals


You can argue the Bengals should look to go cheap at running back after signing Joe Burrow to a massive $275 million contract extension last year, but for 2024 his cap hit sits at around $29 million.  For comparison, that’s just under $30 million less than Patrick Mahomes’ cap hit, so Cincinnati can still take advantage of having a quarterback at a relatively affordable rate for one more year.  Joe Mixon has been a workhorse in the Bengals backfield for most of his career, but it seems likely they’ll move on from him, which would save $6 million against the cap.

Jacobs is just two seasons removed from leading the NFL in rushing, and still just 26. He can be an every-down back that the Bengals can rely on.  For Jacobs, joining a team with an explosive offense like the Bengals that have eyes on the Super Bowl is exactly where I would want to be if I were him.  Playing alongside one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks and wide receivers in Burrow and Ja’Mar Chase would allow Jacobs to maximize the prime of his career, and certainly would be attractive from a fantasy football perspective.   Similar to the Texans, the Bengals should be doing anything they can that could give them a healthy chance at knocking off the Chiefs once January rolls around, and adding a talent like Jacobs would unquestionably help do that.

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@justparadesigns on Twitter/X)

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