The Los Angeles Rams are on the verge of trading running back Cam Akers after coming to the conclusion that “philosophical differences” between him and Sean McVay have reached a point of (probably) no return. Though I don’t see any barrier between Akers and a trade—one of the 31 teams should be able to make some sacrifice for a cheap third-year running back, even if the return is far less than a second round pick—the Rams would probably waive the running back if no satisfactory deal is found.
McVay’s philosophy is that Akers isn’t a fit for his offense or team, somehow. Akers’ philosophy is that he’d like to play more. Hence: Philosophies being at odds.
Whether or not the Rams will be able to find a suitable starting running back this season is up for debate, as is the question of L.A.’s chances of being able to reach the playoffs and compete for another Super Bowl title. After losing out on Christian McCaffrey to their division rivals last week, the Rams must be more focused on how they can improve internally without sacrificing more draft capital for external options. Even if ultimately Les Snead decides to make another trade, McCaffrey was the best option that we knew about on the trade market.
It could serve L.A. better to stick with Darrell Henderson, Kyren Williams, and Malcolm Brown and to wait until scouring the market in 2023. Great news: The 2023 running back market is going to be historic and a lot of star names will be changing teams. Snead is an expert at making trades, but he is also adept at making free agent deals.
The Rams will have their options at both. Though L.A. doesn’t have a lot of cap space, that should not be an issue in finding a starting running back. Potentially even a really good one. Potentially even a star.
2023 free agent running backs
Saquon Barkley, Giants
Josh Jacobs, Raiders
Miles Sanders, Eagles
Kareem Hunt, Browns
Damien Harris, Patriots
Rashaad Penny, Seahawks
Raheem Mostert, Dolphins
Devin Singletary, Bills
Jeff Wilson, 49ers
Mark Ingram, Saints
David Montgomery, Bears
Darrell Henderson, Rams
Tony Pollard, Cowboys
Jamaal Williams, Lions
Melvin Gordon, Broncos
D’Onta Foreman, Panthers
D’Ernest Johnson, Browns
Most of these players are current starters on their teams. Some are injured. Given how unwilling most teams are to pay running backs as much as they want to be paid, I expect almost all of them to reach free agency and talk to other teams, including Saquon Barkley.
Barkley is second in rushing yards, Jacobs is third, and Sanders is fourth. Wilson is 12th even though he didn’t being starting until Week 3. Penny is 19th even though he has missed the last two games, and will miss the rest of the year. Williams is 23rd and also was sharing the backfield with D’Andre Swift for some of the season.
Because of their current records, Jacobs, Ingram, Montgomery, Williams, Gordon, Foreman, Hunt, Johnson might already be on the trade block.
2023 potential cap casualties / trade options
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
Derrick Henry, Titans*
Alvin Kamara, Saints*
Aaron Jones, Packers
Joe Mixon, Bengals
Leonard Fournette, Bucs
Chase Edmonds, Dolphins
Nyheim Hines, Colts
Gus Edwards, Ravens
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs
A lot of people have been counting down the seconds until the Cowboys can release Ezekiel Elliott and get away from his contract/restructure situation. There won’t be a lot of savings, but Dallas will definitely focus on other needs and move on, barring a shocking cap to his season.
I know some of these other names will come as a shock to you, but there is reason to believe these moves would happen.
Jones has a $20 million cap hit next year and he will be 29. I would be surprised if Green Bay pays his $7 million roster bonus, especially since they still have A.J. Dillon and will need cap space. Aaron Jones should become a free agent.
Henry is still a star and a great back, but he’s entering the final year of his deal and set to make $10.5 million in base salary. The Titans could see next year as their opportunity to get a second round pick for Henry while they still can.
The Saints are in cap hell again next year. Trading Kamara would only save the Saints money if they do it after June 1, but they might just be happy to get away from his $9 million base salary. They’re such a bad team until they get a new quarterback... and perhaps a new head coach. New Orleans might be able to recoup a first round pick (they trade theirs to the Saints) if Sean Payton returns to the NFL and a team is desperate to take him off the Saints hands in a trade. Moving Kamara for any price could be inevitable.
Mixon isn’t having a good season yet. The Bengals would save a lot of money by releasing or trading Mixon. They’ll need money to keep Tee Higgins.
And the Clyde Edwards-Helaire pick just isn’t working out great for the Chiefs. Both sides could benefit from a change of scenery.
Of course, the Rams could have an entirely new backfield in 2023, as Akers is on the trade block now and Henderson is a free agent. The Rams will have an opening in the backfield and there will be a lot of interesting options on the market.
Even Saquon Barkley.