If and when Peyton Manning returns for another season, we will likely be looking at an offense like we’ve never before seen from Manning. The writing was on the wall when the Broncos hired running game guru Gary Kubiak as their new head coach. The Broncos need to make one more upgrade in their running game. C.J. Anderson finished of 2014 strong, but he still has work to do in pass protection and his production came in a small sample size. Signing Murray would be an immediate boost for the running game that features an already above average offensive line. The Broncos have the eighth-most salary cap space at nearly $28 million and the. The Broncos have the eighth-most salary cap space at nearly $28 million and they could make one final push to get Manning another Super Bowl.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
The Vikings are likely to break free from Adrian Peterson this offseason, but it has less to do with his drama off the field and more to do with his ridiculous 2015 salary cap number ($15.4 million). Teddy Bridgewater was arguably the best rookie quarterback, but it makes sense to bring him along with a strong running game. If the Vikings take this approach, they will be able to continue building their defense via the draft. The Vikings have the 17th-most salary cap space at just over $16.5 million and this could be their one big splash.
USA TODAY SportsBruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
DeMarco Murray can be everything that the Falcons hoped Steven Jackson would be when they signed him to be their feature back two seasons ago. A new coaching staff will likely want a runner who can move the offense on the early downs and their current roster doesn’t feature any player like that. The Falcons have the 15th-most salary cap space at just over $23.5 million and no key names from their 2014 roster set to hit the market.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
Fred Jackson is still under contract, but he’s not getting any younger and his last two seasons have been marred by injuries. With C.J. Spiller set to hit free agency, the Bills may need a new foundation back. New head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman are known for their ground-and-pound approach. They want to win games 13-10 behind a strong running game that controls the clock. Behind the Bills’ above average offensive line, Murray could be that foundation back right away. With the 14th-most salary cap space at just over $24 million, Buffalo could soon become Murray’s new home.
Getty ImagesBrett Carlsen
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have more talent at running back than most teams who made this list, but there are other reasons to connect the dots here. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s offenses are among the league leaders in targeting their running backs in the passing game. Murray brings the skill-set needed to fit his offense. Also, the Buccaneers are known to make splash free agent signings. They have handed out massive contracts to Vincent Jakckson, Dashon Goldson, Michael Johnson, and others over the last several seasons. If the Buccaneers do draft a quarterback with the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, it would be wise to ease him in with a strong running game. Once again, the Buccaneers enter the offseason with a lot of cap space. They have the 10th-most salary cap space at just under $26 million.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated PrPhelan M. Ebenhack
Trent Richardson was inactive for the AFC championship game and that should tell you all that you need to know about his future with the Colts. He will leave behind a roster of undrafted free agents and an oft-injured veteran. In 2014, the Colts had issues on the offensive line, but their biggest offensive failure was their one-dimensional attack. By the second half of the season, the Colts had all but abandoned the running game. This style of offense made them predictable and teams with a strong pass defense were able to find success in shutting down Luck and the passing game. With the sixth-most salary cap space at just under $37.5 million, the Colts can make this happen.
Getty ImagesMichael Hickey
When Ken Whisenhunt was hired as the new head coach last offseason, he made it clear right off the bat that he was looking for a running back that could be featured on all downs. The Titans took a swing in round two and drafted Bishop Sankey, but after one season it seems like Whisenhunt wasn’t completely on board with the selection. Whisenhunt never used Sankey on more than 50 percent of the offensive snaps in any single game, and he criticized his attention to detail on numerous occasions. With the fifth-most salary cap space at just over $41 million, the Titans could be players in the Murray sweepstakes.
The Raiders have hired defensive-minded head coach Jack Del Rio and accompanying him is Bill Musgrave as offensive coordinator. The last time Musgrave called an offense, he was with the Vikings and in 2012 he fed Adrian Peterson 348 carries and 40 receptions. In 2014, Murray proved that he could handle a similar workload and be just as effective. The Raiders have a younger back in Latavius Murray who has flashed in limited snaps, but he still leaves some to be desired in the passing game and in pass protection. With the second-most salary cap space at just over $56 million, the Raiders can afford to make a splash and build their run-oriented offense around another Murray.
Getty ImagesJustin Sullivan
New offensive coordinator Greg Olson is known for developing quarterbacks, but head coach Gus Bradley comes from the Seahawks and he has been following their blueprint ever since arriving in Jacksonville. He is on his way toward building a stout defense, but last year’s attempt to build a running game backfired when big free agent signing Toby Gerhart was a bust. Without too much money tied to Gerhart’s future or the future of any offensive skill position player, they can afford to build their offense around Murray. The Jaguars currently have the most cap space in the NFL at just over $63.5 million.