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2024 NFL free agency: Ranking top RB moves made, including Derrick Henry to Ravens, Saquon Barkley to Eagles

As expected, running back transactions dominated the NFL’s legal tampered period of 2024 free agency. Each of the top available players at this position found new homes, while one star back under contract is getting traded to one of the NFL’s hottest young teams. 

Which running back transactions made the biggest impact? Which teams benefitted most by their additions? To find out, we ranked each notable running back move below while leaning on the help of CBS Sports data scientist Stephen Oh, who broke down several of the moves and how it will impact those teams in 2024. 

1. Derrick Henry: Baltimore Ravens 

  • Reported deal: Two years, $16 million 

The signing of Henry lifted Baltimore’s projected win total from roughly 11 to 12 games, according to Oh. It raised their odds of winning the AFC North by nearly six points and has made them a near lock to make the playoffs. The Ravens’ chances at getting to the Super Bowl increased from 30.1 to 34.7%. 

I personally like this addition more than that data above suggests. One of the NFL’s best running teams now has King Henry leading the way. After toiling on bad Titans teams the past two years, Henry will now get a chance to chase a ring with a Ravens team that won more regular-season games than any other AFC team last season. 

Baltimore would be wise to limit Henry’s touches during the season in order to keep him fresh to a possible playoff run. Expect the Ravens to do just that as they have a deep backfield that also includes Keaton Mitchell and Justice Hill. I’d be remiss not to mention Lamar Jackson, arguably the greatest running quarterback in league history. 

2. Saquon Barkley: Philadelphia Eagles 

  • Reported deal: Three years, $37.75 million 

No team improved their stock more by adding a running back this week than the Eagles’ whose chances at making the playoffs jumped from 64 to 77%. Their odds of winning the division rose from 34 to 45%. 

It was a close call between Barkley and Henry for the top spot. Clearly, Oh’s data points to Barkley and the Eagles, and it’s hard to argue against those numbers. I, too, feel that Barkley’s impact on the Eagles will be significant. My colleague Jeff Kerr, who has close access to the Eagles, feels that Barkley is a considerable upgrade from D’Andre Swift, who had success during his lone year in Philadelphia. Barkley proved in New York that, when healthy, there may not be a better back in football. 

For Barkley to truly make an impact, though, the Eagles will have to figure out what they’re doing at right guard between now and Week 1. 

3. Josh Jacobs: Green Bay Packers 

  • Reported deal: Four years, $48 million 

It initially looked like Green Bay paid a king’s ransom for Jacobs, but that isn’t the case. His reported deal is front-loaded ($14.8 million for 2024), but backloaded with workout bonuses and other incentives, according to Pro Football Talk

Money aside, the Packers are getting a very good back to replace Aaron Jones. While Jones showed that he is more than capable of churning out yards, Jacobs is a slightly less versatile yet more physical player who likely fits what the Packers want to do moving forward. The league’s rushing champion in 2022, Jacobs is surely eager to show that he’s still that player after enduring a down 2023 season. 

4. Aaron Jones: Minnesota Vikings 

  • Reported deal: One year, $7 million 

Adding Jones — along with quarterback Sam Darnold’s arrival — slightly ease the loss of Kirk Cousins. While their projected win total (eight) only slightly improved, Minnesota’s odds at making the playoffs rose nearly five points to 34%. Their odds at winning the conference and Super Bowl are still slim to none, though. 

The fact that the Vikings are relatively in the same spot they were prior to Cousins’ departure says a lot about the addition of Jones, who finished his tenure in Green Bay with five straight 100-yard rushing performances. Improved offensive line play and quarterback competition for Darnold will only increase Jones’ impact. 

5. Zack Moss: Cincinnati Bengals 

  • Reported deal: Two years, $8 million 

This was an absolute steal for the Bengals, who got Moss for half the money of Henry’s reported deal with Baltimore. 

Henry is clearly the more proven back, but Moss is an up-and-coming player who has less than 484 career carries under his belt (as compared to Henry’s 2,030). Moss was clearly willing to accept less in order to become the featured back for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. 

While he hasn’t had a chance to show it yet, Moss appears ready to take on the role of featured back. He played well in Indianapolis when Jonathan Taylor was out with injuries. Last year, Moss showed his pass-catching ability, which was something that likely contributed to the Bengals’ interest in him. 

6. Joe Mixon: Houston Texans 

  • Reported deal: Traded from Cincinnati for seventh-round pick 

Mixon’s arrival in Houston surprisingly didn’t move the needle too much, according to Oh’s data. The Texans’ win total projection went from eight to nine games, but their odds at winning the division, making the playoffs and reaching the Super Bowl didn’t change much. 

Like the Henry addition, I’m higher on this move than the numbers above. In Mixon, the Texans are getting a very productive former Pro Bowl back who is still just 27 years old. Mixon also has considerable playoff experience (he threw a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl) and can serve as a valued veteran on a largely young Texans team. 

7. D’Andre Swift: Chicago Bears 

  • Reported deal: Three years, $24 million 

While he may still have some doubters, Swift nonetheless had a Pro Bowl campaign during his one year with the Eagles. The 35th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Swift is a dynamic player who should make the Bears’ offense more dangerous in 2024, especially if Justin Fields is still at the controls. 

Like Jones, Chicago has to improve the situation around Swift if he is going to reach his potential in Chicago. Specifically, the Bears need to solidify their offensive line (mostly at center and tackle) this offseason. 

8. Gus Edwards: Los Angeles Chargers 

  • Reported deal: Two years, $6.5 million 

Like Moss, Edwards finally get a chance to be a featured back. Also like Moss, Edwards will do so while playing alongside one of the NFL’s elite young passers in Justin Herbert. Edwards is a physical back who the Chargers surely hope can help keep defenses honest while improving their red zone efficiency. 

Unlike his predecessor, Edwards is not very versatile, so Herbert and the Chargers would be wise to complement Edwards with a pass-catching back. Their current backup, Isaiah Spiller, caught just nine passes (on nine targets) during his first two seasons. 

9. Tony Pollard, Tennessee Titans

  • Reported deal: Three years, $24 million 

This was a good move for both sides. The Titans found a capable replacement for Henry, and Pollard gets a chance to show that he is still a productive starting running back after a disappointing 2023 season in Dallas. 

Expect a solid 2024 season from the 27-year-old Pollard, who last year ran behind a Cowboys line that was clearly in decline. He’s just two years removed from a Pro Bowl season that included three touchdown catches and a 5.2 yards-per-carry average. 

10. Austin Ekeler: Washington Commanders 

  • Reported deal: Two years, $11.4 million 

Ekeler probably wanted to say in Los Angeles, but he instead had to relocate to a team that has little shot at doing anything in 2024. While he is a very good player, Ekeler faces an uphill battle on a team that has a lot of holes, especially on offense. 

That being said, Ekeler is arguably the league’s most complete back when healthy. He’ll get a chance to showcase his special skill set if the Commanders can get him enough help. 

11. Devin Singletary: New York Giants 

  • Reported deal: Three years, $16.5 million 

Oh’s data projects that the Giants will miss Barkley this season. While their win total basically stayed the same at six games, New York’s already slim playoff odds dipped from 8.6 to 5.3%. 

Singletary’s career so far has been solid but unspectacular. He’s a tough runner who has been extremely durable. But it’s hard to get too excited about this addition given Singletary’s underwhelming production so far (he’s never rushed for 900 yards in a season) and the Giants’ loss of arguably the league’s best back led to this move taking up the rear. 

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