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Free Agent Primer: Running Backs

Position-by-position look for Cardinals sees youth carrying the ball


Stepfan Taylor could have a bigger role in the backfield in 2014.

Free agency begins on March 11. The Cardinals have many key pieces in place, but there are still needs to be addressed. We'll break it down by position over the next 10 days as unsigned NFL players prepare to hit the open market.

More free agent analysis: QB

Free agent primer: Running back

Cap numbers of players under contract for 2014: Ryan Williams ($1.59 million); Stepfan Taylor ($545,125); Andre Ellington ($520,966)

Scheduled free agents: Rashard Mendenhall; Alfonso Smith (restricted)

Need: Low

Analysis: Andre Ellington led the NFL in yards per carry last season, and while the Cardinals don't view him as a traditional workhorse back, he's still expected to have a large and varied role in 2014. The team could go a number of ways in finding a between-the-tackles complement, with in-house options, free agency and the draft all on the table. Last year's starter, Rashard Mendenhall, is set to be a free agent and will likely have a reduced role if he does return.

With the emergence of Ellington, the Cardinals don't need to break the bank to get Mendenhall back, but could still re-sign him if the price is right. Although Stepfan Taylor had only 36 carries for 115 yards as a rookie in 2013, he may have shown enough to get his chance at a platoon with Ellington. Ryan Williams was inactive in every game last season, and since cutting him would give the Cardinals more than $1 million of cap relief, the former second-round pick figures to either get a shot at playing time or be released. Alfonso Smith dropped down the depth chart during the season and may be allowed to test the market.

Notable scheduled NFL free agents: Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Knowshon Moreno, Donald Brown, LeGarrette Blount, Ben Tate, Joique Bell (restricted), James Starks, Toby Gerhart.

Notable past free agent RB signings by the Cardinals: Rashard Mendenhall (2013); Edgerrin James (2006); Emmitt Smith (2003); Mario Bates (1998).

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