Are Ravens ready to make free agency splash at running back?

OWINGS MILLS — With free agency set to open when the new league year begins on Wednesday, March 13th, the Ravens could be looking to add a playmaking running back.

Teams can start negotiating with players and agreeing to terms on new deals beginning Monday.

The market for running backs this offseason is fertile, so general manager Eric DeCosta could find a cap-friendly deal.

The Ravens have just two running backs under contract — Justice Hill and Keaton Mitchell, whose rookie season ended when he tore his ACL against Jacksonville in Week 15. Mitchell might not be available until midway through the 2024 season.

DeCosta has said that signing a running back is a priority this offseason.

Here’s a look at the top free agents and what they will potentially cost the Ravens:

— Derrick Henry

Market Value (via Spotrac): 1 year, $10.3 million per season

Pros: Henry’s downhill running style perfectly fits the Ravens’ offensive system. His mere presence could also create opportunities in the passing game because opponents would have to bring more players to the line of scrimmage to contain him. Henry has run for at least 1,00 yards and 12 touchdowns in five of the last six seasons.

Cons: At age 30, Henry is on the back end of his career. He is also a costly option for the Ravens, who don’t have a whole lot of salary-cap space. The Ravens could decide to sign a younger and less expensive player.

— Saquon Barkley

Market Value (via Spotrac): 3 years, $29.93 million

Pros: Barkey, 27, is one of the top running backs in the NFL. He would provide the Ravens with an explosive running back who could change the dynamic of a game. Barkley has run for more than 1,000 yards in three of the past six seasons, and he would get plenty of opportunities to carry the ball in Baltimore.

Cons: Barkley had dealt with numerous injuries throughout his NFL career, including a season-ending knee injury in 2020. The Ravens also have dealt with various injuries to their running backs over the past several years, so they might want to stay away from a player with his injury history.

— Josh Jacobs

Market Value (via Spotrac): 3 years, $31.7 million

Pros: Jacobs would be a huge splash for the Ravens because he is the most expensive free-agent running back available. At age 26, he’s an explosive player and has managed to avoid significant injuries. Jacobs has run for more than 1,000 yards three times in the past five seasons. He would be a huge upgrade to the Ravens’ running backs room.

Cons: Jacobs comes with a hefty price tag, and he’ll have no shortage of suitors in the free-agent market. The Ravens might not be able to compete with the potential offers from other teams. The Bears are expected to make an initial offer to Jacobs, and he could be a good fit in Chicago.

— Tony Pollard

Market Value (via Spotrac): 2 years, $13 million

Pros: Pollard would not cost the Ravens as much as some of the other free-agent running backs and could be a productive player in their system. Pollard rushed for 1,005 yards and six touchdowns in 2023. At age 26, Pollard’s best days as an NFL player could still be ahead of him. Pollard is a durable player who has appeared in at least 15 games in each of his five NFL seasons.

Cons: The question is whether Pollard could be a game-breaker for the Ravens. He averaged 4.3 yards per touch last season, which ranked No. 27 among the 34 players with 200-plus touches. Pollard also ran for 100 or more yards four times last season.

— J.K. Dobbins

Market Value (via Spotrac): 2 years, $4.4 million

Pros:  The Ravens drafted Dobbins in the second round of the 2020 draft, so he knows the system. He also has a strong rapport with quarterback Lamar Jackson. When Dobbins is healthy, he is a productive player. He also would be an affordable option because he might not find much of a market because of how many games he has missed.

Cons: Injuries have plagued Dobbins, and he has appeared in just 24 games since being drafted. He also held out of last year’s training camp because of the uncertainty with his contract. Dobbins might benefit from a change of scenery, although he would have something to prove here.

— Gus Edwards

Market Value (via Spotrac): 1 year, $3.6 million

Pros: The Ravens signed Edwards as an undrafted rookie in 2018, and he has been a workhorse when healthy. Edwards’ downhill running style fits the Ravens’ style of play. Last season, Edwards finished with career highs in carries (198), rushing yards (810), rushing touchdowns (13), receptions (12), and receiving yards (180). His 13 rushing touchdowns were the fifth highest of any player.

Cons: At 28, Edwards has a lot of wear on his body. He missed the 2021 season with a knee injury. Edwards also averaged the fewest yards per carry (4.1) in his career in 2023. Edwards has never run for 1,000 yards and questions remain about whether he could be the featured running back in Baltimore.

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