2013's free agent Running Backs and potential cap casualties
For a look at the free agent quarterbacks of 2013, click here.
For defensive linemen, click here.
Free agency's top running may or may not hit the open market - Steven Jackson has a player option with the St. Louis Rams, meaning he has the right to decide whether or not he will play under the final year of his contract, worth $7 million. Many expect Jackson to void the final year of his deal and test the market. Turning 30 years old before next season, I'd imagine that he'll be looking to latch on with a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Falcons would be an interesting fit if the price is right.
Reggie Bush has reportedly been planning to test the open market for a long time, though he and the Dolphins haven't ruled out a return to Miami. However, the Dolphins seem very content with Lamar Miller taking over as the leader in the backfield. Over the past two seasons, Bush proven he could handle a legitimate running back workload, and it's widely known that he has a great skill set for a role on passing downs. The Lions and Bengals are two of the possible teams to land Bush's services.
The Giants just recently released Ahmad Bradshaw, but he shouldn't have much trouble finding work after rushing for over a thousand yards on 4.6 yards per carry in 2012. Bradshaw had been dealing with foot issues throughout the year, and recently had another surgery to repair it, but he claims he'll be ready by training camp. He said that there's a possibility that he'll return to the Giants once he's healthy.
Cedric Benson was playing decently with the Packers before a Lisfranc injury ended his season. His 3.5 yards per carry in 2012 won't have teams lining up with contract offers, but he's a proven workhorse who could provide veteran insurance. Though it's relatively slim, there is a chance that he returns to the Packers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were terribly disappointed with their backfield last season, meaning they will let Rashard Mendenhall hit the open market. Mendenhall was one of several ineffective Steelers backs, finishing the season with 182 rushing yards on 3.6 per carry. He ran for over 1200 yards with 13 touchdowns in 2010, so someone will likely grab him as a backup/change of pace back.
The Chiefs looked to have constructed a great "thunder and lightning" combination last year when they signed Peyton Hillis to share the backfield with Jamaal Charles, but he was a disappointment, racking up only 309 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Despite the big name, Hillis has only topped 600 rushing yards once in his career, and has dealt with injuries in each of the past two seasons. He'll get some looks a backup.
Shonn Greene has topped a thousand yards in two straight seasons, but is a mediocre talent... Danny Woodhead could be a great addition for a team looking for a pass catching back, though he's expressed his desire to return to the Patriots... Felix Jones got the chance to prove his value due to DeMarco Murray missing time in 2012, but Jones was ineffective for the most part... Brandon Jacobs couldn't even get on the field in San Francisco in 2012, then made matters worse by complaining about his role... Bernard Scott is coming off a torn ACL, but possesses great athleticism that should draw some interest... Rashad Jennings couldn't take advantage of Maurice Jones-Drew's foot injury, doing next to nothing with his touches (101 carries, 283 yards).
There aren't quite as many potential cap casualties at running back as there were at quarterback, but there are still some big names who could see their contracts cut short:
Michael Turner lost a ton of explosiveness between the 2011 and 2012 seasons, made evident by his average of 3.6 yards per carry (down from 4.5 in 2011). Under contract for $5.5 million, the Falcons are going to want a cheaper, more effective between-the-tackles runner to compliment Jacquizz Rodgers in the backfield.
The Panthers gave DeAngelo Williams a huge contract after two straight declining seasons that were partially a result of injury. Williams' contract is probably part of the reason that the Panthers changed general manager's during the 2012 season, and new GM Dave Gettleman would love to get Williams' $4.75 million off the team's payroll. Cutting Williams would result in a significant cap hit, so expect the Panthers to look into trade options.