The legal tampering period always announces the beginning of the new NFL league year, and then as the clock strikes 2:00 pm on March 15, free agency opens in a flurry. Teams rush to sign their new players and announce them to the world. In the ensuing chaos, both interested fans of the NFL and excitable partakers of the great game of fantasy football speculate as to how those new players will impact their favorite teams and their fantasy rosters. So let's dive into the running back group that signed deals so far in free agency and see what kind of impact they'll have!
Miles Sanders, Carolina Panthers
Sanders left the Philadelphia Eagles to sign a four-year, $25 million deal with $13 million guaranteed with the Carolina Panthers. The Eagles didn't show any interest in resigning him despite Sanders' pleas on social media for the team to do so, but it was still surprising for the assumed top option on the market that did not get franchise tagged to only get an average annual value (AAV) of just over $6 million a year.
After running for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career last season, Sanders steps into a running back room that only contains Chuba Hubbard and Raheem Blackshear as the other backs, so expect Sanders to command the early down role that he had in Philadelphia last season. We know from watching that he won't contribute much in the passing game, so his upside will always be capped, especially in this offense that will be starting a rookie quarterback and Adam Thielen as the current WR1.
2023 Fantasy Football Prediction: Top-25 RB, but should not be taken before Round 8 in leagues.
David Montgomery, Detroit Lions
Another big running back domino dropped, as Montgomery chose to join his former rival in the Lions after spending his rookie contract playing for the Chicago Bears. He signed a 3-year, $18 million deal with $11 million guaranteed and profiles as an upgraded version of the role that Jamaal Williams played for the Lions last season. Montgomery has vacillated between average and below average production and efficiency during his career thus far but really could thrive in this role given that despite fellow backfield member D'Andre Swift's presence, the Lions have not shown a lot of warmth towards Swift this last season and could look to Montgomery to take a sizable role in the offense.
Montgomery is big enough at 222 lbs to take goal-line work but has also shown enough in the passing game to snag some passing down work in what should be a high-octane offense.
2023 Fantasy Football Prediction: Top-18 running back should be drafted in the mid-rounds as an RB2 option with the possibility of sneaking into RB1 territory for multiple weeks.
Jamaal Williams, New Orleans Saints
As Montgomery joined the Lions, it caused Williams to seek a new team as well, and he ended up signing with the Saints on a three-year, $12 million deal with $8.15 million guaranteed. Coming off a 1,000-yard, 17-touchdown season where he led the NFL in rushing scores, Williams joins a team that could use some help in the rushing department, given that they are bracing for a possible suspension of its franchise back Alvin Kamara. The Saints also just signed Derek Carr and restructured Michael Thomas, so this offense might not be as bad as people think in an NFC South division begging for a team to step up and win it with some urgency.
2023 Fantasy Football Prediction: Top-24 running back that will be drafted in the back end of a lot of drafts until we find out what is happening with Kamara.
Samaje Perine, Denver Broncos
Perine signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract with $3 million guaranteed to play backup to Javonte Williams on the Broncos, but the hidden layer to this deal is that Perine played better than Joe Mixon in a lot of areas last season. He could easily find a path to seeing a solid amount of touches for this offense this season, depending on what the Broncos decide to do further at the position.
Williams is not guaranteed to be ready for Week 1 of the season, so keep an eye on Perine here. He is an excellent Zero RB target in drafts.
2023 Fantasy Football Prediction: RB4 with a lot of upside given that the Broncos will probably add another body to this backfield, either deeper in free agency or the draft. Draft Perine as a Zero RB option in the mid-teens rounds, and he could also be available on waivers post-draft if they decide to add further help.
Continue reading this content with a 100% free Insider subscription.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE