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Which running backs will be traded before next week’s deadline?

A test of running backs and teams

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Some trade rumors are 100% lies, but it seems like the L.A. Rams’ interest in Christian McCaffrey was indeed real. Especially once you consider where McCaffrey landed and the fact that the Rams are open about wanting to trade Cam Akers.

The Rams want to trade for a running back before next Tuesday’s deadline. They will have some competition, as the Eagles are just one team reportedly looking for running back help. And some options.

In addition to McCaffrey going to the 49ers, the Jaguars also traded James Robinson to the Jets. For a position that “doesn’t matter,” it sure seems like running backs are in higher demand than other positions midseason. It could also be related to the idea that running backs are more fungible than other positions. But obviously the Rams, and a few other teams, are not content with their current running back rooms and haven’t been able to find adequate players on the free agent market.

On Sunday, I posted an article of all the upcoming free agents and trade options next year at the running back position. Which of the big names will actually be moved before the November 1 deadline?

Josh Jacobs, Raiders

Will Jacobs be traded?

I guess all you had to do was switch out Jon Gruden for Josh McDaniels and suddenly Jacobs is the running back he was meant to be coming out of Alabama. Jacobs is averaging 105.5 yards per game, 5.7 yards per carry, and who knows, he might even catch a touchdown one day. (Jacobs has zero receiving touchdowns on 127 career receptions.)

Two weeks ago, Jacobs looked like a blue chip trade asset as the Raiders were 1-4 after a loss to the Chiefs. But now, the Raiders are probably going to start believing themselves again following a 38-20 win over the Texans.

Had Las Vegas lost that game, then yes, they could consider a full rebuild. However, the Raiders are also aware that they lost their Week 1 game by five points, their Week 2 game in overtime, their Week 3 game by two points, and their Week 5 game by one point.

Four losses by a combined total of 14 points.

With the Saints, Jaguars, Colts, and Broncos on deck, McDaniels is eyeing a potential turnaround getting back to .500 and Las Vegas isn’t about to ship off their most productive offensive weapon. Instead of trading Jacobs, the Raiders must be thinking about the franchise tag in 2023.

Will Josh Jacobs be traded: No

Kareem Hunt, Browns

Will Hunt be traded?

The last five years have not gone as Hunt (or anybody) expected. After rushing for 609 yards and 6.3 yards per carry over his first five career games, Hunt was expected to be the next Priest Holmes or Larry Johnson in the Chiefs offense. He could catch the ball, too.

The rest of Hunt’s rookie season good, not great.

Then as everyone knows, Hunt was in the middle of a good follow-up campaign in 2018 when he was caught pushing and kicking a woman on security camera footage. The Chiefs released Hunt, not for the incident, but for lying to the team about what happened. Hunt was also suspended eight games by the NFL.

Really, Hunt’s entire “resurgence” has been based mostly on how well he vibed as a complement to Nick Chubb during Cleveland’s 11-5 season in 2020. Hunt rushed for 841 yards and caught 38 passes for 304 yards as one half of a committee on the Browns. But since the start of 2021, Hunt has carried the ball 144 times for 649 yards over 15 games, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and catching 37 passes for 261 yards.

There hasn’t been a single game this year that saw Hunt be mega explosive after Chubb leaves the field. Over the last two seasons, when healthy, Hunt has been the team’s “refreshment” for Chubb in the second and fourth quarters. He hasn’t proven to be a three-down back or a number one back. He has almost exclusively been used out of under-center situations.

Whether or not Kareem Hunt is going to be a great number one running back for a team is a mystery and most of the evidence for that came about five years ago. Since then, all we really know is that he’s not as good as Chubb. And that’s fine, Chubb could be the best running back in the NFL. But I think that a lot of the hype for Hunt being traded is based on the fan appetite for seeing him get 200-250 carries in a season rather than a boatload of recent evidence that Hunt is especially great.

That’s a lot of noise to get to this: Yes, the Browns should and probably will trade Kareem Hunt. They face the Bengals on Monday Night Football and are looking to stop a four-game losing streak. Whether that does or doesn’t happen, the Browns must seriously consider getting whatever they can for Hunt. I expect that the return may not be as great as some people assume it will be because I believe Hunt could be about on the same plane as Darrell Henderson, and not necessarily a massive upgrade.

I wonder if the Buccaneers, desperate to help Tom Brady but still first in the division, would want to swing for Hunt before the deadline. But the Rams could also be wanting to complete that circle.

Will Kareem Hunt be traded: Yes

Jamaal Williams, Lions

Will Williams be traded?

He’s not the most famous running back. Williams’ career high for rushing yards was 601 last season. He’s on pace to break that, but only because D’Andre Swift has missed the last three games. Williams has rushed for 330 yards (4.8 YPC) in the last four games. Swift could return this week, but he’s also got a consistent track record for missing games.

The Lions are in the midst of yet another lost campaign. They are 1-5 and potentially headed for the number one pick, at which point they will choose a quarterback to replace Jared Goff. In might be fine to “tank” in the eyes of some, but not Dan Campbell. And Campbell loves Jamaal Williams.

Will Jamaal Williams be traded: No

David Montgomery, Bears

Will Montgomery be traded?

The answer here would definitely be different if Chicago had lost to the Patriots on Monday. Instead, they won by 19 points and Montgomery played a big role in the win, rushing for 62 yards and a touchdown.

The Bears seem awful, but they have the same record as the Packers and the Matt Eberflus defense is keeping the games close enough. Even if the Bears lose to the Cowboys this week, they would be looking ahead to home games against the Dolphins and Lions as their road back to .500. Despite a strong season by backup Khalil Herbert and Montgomery’s pending free agency, it seems as though Chicago is going to be “too good” to trade a starter in the middle of the season for what would probably only be day three draft compensation.

Will David Montgomery be traded: No

Melvin Gordon, Broncos

Will Gordon be traded?

Every year, there’s a coach who becomes the entire focus of the NFL Twitter community and they won’t stop until he is fired. Last season, it was Urban Meyer. This season, it’s Nathaniel Hackett. (Although I would remind people that Twitter was also relentless in its criticism for Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni a year ago.)

Maybe Gordon isn’t playing as much recently because the Broncos want to keep him healthy enough to trade. Gordon has lost ground to Latavius Murray. Denver has lost four in a row. If they lose to the Jaguars in London this week, the Broncos may be looking to add any draft picks that they can, as they’re without their first and second round picks because of Russell Wilson.

Gordon should be traded. But with four fumbles already this season (on 66 carries) and his poor performance, can Denver even get a day three pick swap for him?

Will Melvin Gordon be traded: Yes

Which RB would make most sense for the Rams? Certainly the ties to the Detroit front office open up the door to Jamaal Willams, but only if the Lions are giving up. It feels like given the splashy nature of Les Snead moves that Kareem Hunt could be the number one target.