Jay Ajayi, running back for the Philadelphia Eagles, had a bit of a rough season given that he spent most of it on injured reserve. But he’s also just a year removed from being a primary back on the Super Bowl winning Eagles team. And now he is a free agent. He’s not going to be the first pick for most teams searching for a new halfback, in a free agent market that will also include Le’Veon Bell and Mark Ingram. But he’ll still be worth a look if he doesn’t return to Philly.
2019 NFL Free Agent: Jay Ajayi
As previously noted, Ajayi had a tough end to the 2018 season when he tore his ACL after only four games. In those four games, he tallied 184 yards and three touchdowns. One of those games was his second career multi-touchdown one that included a go-ahead score against the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener.
Ajayi had been with the Miami Dolphins up until the 2017 season when he was traded to the Eagles. During the 2017 season (in which he played closer to a full season), he put up a total of 873 yards and only one rushing touchdown (he did add a receiving touchdown). Previously with the Dolphins, he had a 1,000-yard season in 2016, which included three 200-yard games. Although his stats with the Eagles may seem a bit down from previous years, it’s worth noting that the Eagles have liked employing a more committee-style approach at the position recently.
It’s entirely possible that Ajayi simply ends up returning to Philadelphia. Despite them generally having a committee approach and even often being a pass-first offense, he was still their top option. But it’s also possible that Philly could decide they like their younger backs like Josh Adams and Corey Clement who had to take over for Ajayi and let him go.
If the Eagles did choose not to re-sign him, one possible fit for him would be the Baltimore Ravens. Although they transitioned to a run-first offense when Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback and succeeded at it, they did not really have a clear top option in 2018 and most of their backs are free agents now. Ajayi could be a good option for them if they’re looking for someone new to get the bulk of the carries.
Another team with uncertainty at running back is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although they drafted Ronald Jones last year, he didn’t inspire confidence and Peyton Barber is a free agent now. If nothing else, they could sign him as a more surefire option if Jones continues to not pan out; and if he does, you have a solid two-pronged halfback attack. The New York Jets and Oakland Raiders are also teams that are likely to be starting new running backs next year, and thus they could also be destinations for Ajayi.
The first two running backs to leave the market are probably going to be Bell and Ingram (unless Bell continues to be picky with his contract demands). After those two, Ajayi and Tevin Coleman will probably get looked at next if they have not been re-signed. There are other teams that could become interested in his services if certain running backs retire, but the Ravens, Buccaneers, and Raiders right now look to be the best options for him where he could get a bulk of the carries.
Ajayi has not been spectacular as of late, but he has some quite impressive history. He’s one of only 15 players with three or more 200+ rushing yardage games, and he got all three of those in one season. He could continue to be a decent contributor whether he stays with Philly or finds himself on a new team.
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