Bases Loaded

It’s that time of the year again. A time that is crazy, unpredictable, ever changing and leaves people wondering what will happen next. No it’s not March Madness that I speak of, it’s the NFL free agency period.

All the bracket talk that usually comes with the NCAA Tournament has been overshadowed a bit this year by the NFL’s free agency news, particularly the question of where Peyton Manning will be taking snaps next season.

Because of names like Manning and elite defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams, this year’s free agent market could be the most exciting ever, excepting last year’s, where all free agent signings happened within a week due to the lockout.

Other than Manning and Williams, there has been a focus on the receiver position with Vincent Jackson signing a big contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Calvin Johnson and DeSean Jackson signing huge extensions with the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively.

A group of guys being overlooked are the free agent running backs. This could be due to the fact that last year seemed to be the year of the quarterback. It could also be due to the fact that there are no premier backs available.

What you do have is a handful of guys who can go somewhere and contribute to a team on the bench. Peyton Hillis went to join Jamaal Charles in Kansas City earlier this week in what should be a productive duo, health permitting.

Here are my top five available running backs, in no particular order, that some teams may want to take a look at:

First up is Mike Tolbert, formerly of the San Diego Chargers. Anybody who had Tolbert on their fantasy team last year knows what I am talking about. He has scored 19 rushing touchdowns in the past two seasons. While having a decent 1,225 yards more that span and only one turnover in 175 touches, he could be a great addition to many teams.

Another fine addition, and possibly as a number one back, is the “Law Firm”, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The former Ole Miss Rebel ran for more than 1,000 yards two seasons ago and has carried in 11 and 13 touchdowns the past two years.

Not bad for a very pass happy New England Patriot squad. Imagine what he could do for a team dedicated to the run.

My next two running backs come with a Super Bowl ring each. The first of those is former New York Giant Brandon Jacobs. The “Battering Ram” is 6-foot 4 and 260-plus pounds and a definite presence between the tackles. He has 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons and would make a nice tandem to a team with a speedy running back, like the Titans, Texans, Dolphins or Eagles.

The other championship running back on the market is former Green Bay Packer Ryan Grant.

Though last year was a down year for Grant and he missed the 2010 season with an injury, he ran for 1,200-plus in both 2008 and 2009 and had double-digit scores during the ’09 campaign. Grant may be past his prime, but I think he can still contribute in certain situations and can be signed for pretty cheap.

Rounding out my list is Michael Bush, formerly of the Oakland Raiders. An injury to Darren McFadden last season gave Bush an opportunity to show his abilities and he did just that. He finished the season with nearly 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns.

Bush has only been in the league for four seasons meaning he could still get better. In the right situation, he could become a top ten running back in the entire league and could take a team to the next level.