Free-agent fit: Running back

March, 9, 2013
3/09/13
2:30
PM ET
Sixth in a multi-part series on free-agent fits at various positions leading into the start of free agency March 12.

Position: Running back

[+] EnlargeGreg Jones, LaMarr Woodley
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesGreg Jones would be a powerful addition at fullback if the Patriots decide to go that route.
Players under contract for 2013: Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, Jeff Demps

Level of need: Low

Projected top targets: Greg Jones (Jaguars), Corey McIntyre (Bills), Danny Woodhead (Patriots)

Why Jones fits: If the Patriots are serious about adding a lead-blocking fullback to the mix, the 31-year-old Jones could warrant a look. He’s played his entire career with the Jaguars, and naturally has slowed down a bit at this stage of his career, but would also bring a veteran presence.

Why McIntyre fits: Similar to Jones, McIntyre would be a fullback-type presence and he also has extensive special teams experience. At 34, he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning.

Why Woodhead fits: He’s a solid, reliable passing back who has carved out a nice niche in the Patriots’ offense in recent years.

Other names of note: Cedric Benson (Packers), Reggie Bush (Dolphins), Mike Cox (Falcons), Ryan Grant (Packers), Shonn Greene (Jets), Jerome Harrison (Lions), Steven Jackson (Rams), Quinn Johnson (Titans), Brian Leonard (Bengals), Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers), LaRod Stephens-Howling (Cardinals), Felix Jones (Cowboys)

Market conditions: There are some big names and former high draft choices in the group. This is a position that hasn’t been commanding big-bucks contracts on the open market in part because of the shorter shelf life of those who play it, and also how teams have had success finding productive runners in a pinch.

Questions to answer at position: For Stevan Ridley, are there any residual effects of the blow to the helmet that knocked him out of the AFC Championship Game? … Is Jeff Demps more than a return specialist? … Will Brandon Bolden regain the form from early in 2012, or will last season’s suspension ultimately be the turning point to a downward spiral of his career? … How important is a fullback?

YOUR TURN: Which of these would you like to see in a Patriots uniform? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog entry.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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