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Top 15 NFL Free Agent Running Backs

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The 15 Best Running Backs Available in 2013 Free Agency

Tim-Heitman-USA-TODAY-Sports
Tim-Heitman-USA-TODAY-Sports

With the start of NFL free agency just a month away, it's time to start analyzing the top players available at each position. In this installment we take a look at the best running backs that could be on the market. This slideshow mainly consists of unrestricted free agent running backs, but there are a few restricted players as well.

I've certainly seen a better crop of free agent running backs in years past. This year features several good players, but no one that I would call elite.

Even though the game of football is evolving, and you can definitely call today's NFL a passing league, the importance of a good running game is still there. We saw in 2012 that a running back can still carry a team on his back. Adrian Peterson was the first running back to win MVP since 2006.

I often wonder if running backs will continue to have big seasons even though many teams execute pass-first offenses. You'd have to think that the defensive players drafted nowadays are geared more towards pass coverage, or drafted for their speed. Point being, that those types of players are not the ideal candidates to stop a beast like AP.

So even with the evolution of the game, running backs aren't going anywhere. There's always going to be a strong need for good running backs in the game of football. However, I expect the position itself to continue to evolve as well, meaning that more and more running backs will be dual threats and we'll see less of the old-school bruisers.

Let's take a look at the 15 best free agent RBs in 2013:

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#15 - Javon Ringer

Don-McPeak-USA-TODAY-Sports
Don-McPeak-USA-TODAY-Sports

Ringer's 2012 season ended with a torn MCL, and he's basically just a lotto ticket at this point, but he'll find a new home in 2013. He'll only be entering his fifth season and he's affordable. If nothing else, Ringer will provide depth for a team in need.

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#14 - Lance Ball

Chris-Humphreys-USA-TODAY-Sports
Chris-Humphreys-USA-TODAY-Sports

With several running backs on the depth chart in Denver, you have to wonder if Ball will be the odd man out. He's a restricted free agent, but I can easily see him being released. At 27, he'll be affordable and worth taking a chance on.

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#13 - Ronnie Brown

Jason-Bridge-USA-TODAY-Sports
Jason-Bridge-USA-TODAY-Sports

Brown is now basically a third down back, but it seems to be a role that fits him well at this point in his career. He was solid for San Diego coming out of the backfield as a receiver, and he can still pick up a few tough yards on the ground if needed.

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#12 - Isaac Redman

Charles-LeClaire-USA-TODAY-Sports
Charles-LeClaire-USA-TODAY-Sports

Redman is another RFA that could be released by Pittsburgh, depending on what direction they go in. I've never been real impressed by Redman, but he's only 28, and has rushed for nearly 500 yards the past two seasons.

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#11 - LaRod Stephens-Howling

Daniel-Shirey-USA-TODAY-Sports
Daniel-Shirey-USA-TODAY-Sports

Stephens-Howling is only 25 and coming off his best season as a pro. When he was the feature back and got the carries, he performed well in 2012. Both games in which he got 20 or more carries, he also eclipsed the 100-yard mark and scored at least one touchdown.

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#10 - Danny Woodhead

Rob-Foldy-USA-TODAY-Sports
Rob-Foldy-USA-TODAY-Sports

It's tough to see Woodhead playing for anyone other than New England, but he is a UFA in 2013. To me he's a guy who will only be successful in a system like they run in NE, but you never know. Although he's a Patriot through and through, they do have a young and talented backfield, and Woodhead may not be priority.

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#9 - Peyton Hillis

Denny-Medley-USA-TODAY-Sports
Denny-Medley-USA-TODAY-Sports

Hillis will likely be a complementary back for the rest of his career, but he's still only 27. I'm sure in his mind he should be competing for a starting job in 2013, so I don't see him back in KC. On the other side, teams with open spots in their backfield should also want to bring him in to compete.

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#8 - Rashad Jennings

Kevin-Hoffman-USA-TODAY-Sports
Kevin-Hoffman-USA-TODAY-Sports

Jennings is a back who should want to get out of Jacksonville, and out from the shadow of MJD. He's shown his potential at times, and while I don't think he's a hidden gem in free agency, I could easily see him having a good season with a new team in 2013.

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#7 - LeGarrette Blount

Kim-Klement-USA-TODAY-Sports
Kim-Klement-USA-TODAY-Sports

Blount will be a RFA in 2013, and given that Doug Martin is now the man in Tampa, Blount's future is no doubt up in the air. I would think the Bucs would want to keep him as the thunder to Martin's lightning, but will Blount want to stay? I think he will be a thunder complementary back the rest of his career, but I doubt that's what he's thinking.

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#6 - Cedric Benson

Mary-Langenfeld-USA-TODAY-Sports
Mary-Langenfeld-USA-TODAY-Sports

Injuries ended Benson's 2012 campaign prematurely, but he'll be back in 2013, likely with a new team. He's now 30-years old, so his stock is declining rapidly, but he did rush for over 1,000 yards the prior three seasons. Benson has a year or two left in him of solid production.

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#5 - Ahmad Bradshaw

dgd
Brad-Penner-USA-TODAY-Sports

The recently cut Bradshaw is now on the open market and free to sign anywhere. It looks like he could go back to the Giants, but that's only if they want him back.

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#4 - Felix Jones

Matthew-Emmons-USA-TODAY-Sports
Matthew-Emmons-USA-TODAY-Sports

It's pretty clear that Demarco Murray is the man in Big-D, so I don't see why Jones would want to re-sign there. He's only 25, and he's free to sign anywhere. Even with his history of injuries, some team will take chance and bring him in to compete for a starting job in 2013.

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#3 - Rashard Mendenhall

Jason-Bridge-USA-TODAY-Sports
Jason-Bridge-USA-TODAY-Sports

I think Mendenhall is done in Pittsburgh. He's also only 25 and could use a fresh start in 2013. He should be fully healthy after battling injuries over the past couple of seasons, and we've all seen what a healthy Mendenhall is capable of. I doubt he'll get a lucrative long-term offer, but he may sign short-term deal in 2013 with a chance to earn a big payday in a year or two.

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#2 - Shonn Greene

The-Star-Ledger-USA-TODAY-Sports
The-Star-Ledger-USA-TODAY-Sports

Most think Greene is done in New York. While I won't call him a bust, I think that most fans have been a little disappointed with his career so far. A fresh start may be just what Greene needs. He'll be affordable, and likely brought in to be a thunder on a team with a lightning already in place. Greene is a good, but not great NFL running back who should have a long career.

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#1 - Reggie Bush

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Andrew-Weber-USA-TODAY-Sports

Bush has definitely resurrected his career over the last two seasons in Miami. However, rumors are swirling that the Dolphins are not fully committed to bringing him back. Just on sheer talent and ability I think Bush is the best running back available on the market in 2013. How much a team is willing to pay him though, is another issue. But at 28, Bush has several more years of solid production in him. I won't be surprised if some team does offer him a fairly lucrative deal, but I don't expect that team to be Miami.

Also be sure to check out the Top 15 Free Agent Wide Receivers