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Early RB Roundup: McKinnon Gets Big Money; Hyde, Lewis, Crowell Move On Too
With quarterbacks and wide receivers front and center in the days leading up to the start of free agency (which officially cranks up at 4 p.m. Eastern Time today), running backs took a backseat. That started to change late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning as Dion Lewis, Jerick McKinnon, Carlos Hyde, Isaiah Crowell and Jonathan Stewart all struck deals with new teams.

We'll get the ball rolling with McKinnon, who just might have found the best possible situation by agreeing to terms with the San Francisco 49ers. And they're really good terms.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the deal is worth $30 million over four seasons. The $7.5 million per-year average would put McKinnon -- who has 14 career starts -- as the fourth-highest paid running back in the NFL (south of only Le'Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy).

As's Kevin Patra suggests, the deal is massive for a player who spent four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings as a rotational player, earning 1,918 yards on 474 carries with seven TDs while adding 142 receptions for 984 yards and five touchdown catches.

The 25-year-old McKinnon, who ran for 570 yards and caught 51 passes for 421 yards last season, is now likely to be the starter in San Francisco ahead of Matt Breida and Joe Williams.

Better still, Kyle Shanahan's history of coaxing production from running backs bodes well for a do-it-all threat like McKinnon.

As Patra pointed out, Shanahan has helped running backs like Steve Slaton and Alfred Morris burst onto the NFL scene. Atlanta Falcons shifty running back Tevin Coleman, who flourished in his second season under Shanahan, could be the closest example with McKinnon's skill set.

The 49ers needed a running back because their leading rusher from last year, Hyde, agreed to terms with the Browns this morning.

It is set to be a three-year deal worth more than $15 million with Hyde earning $6 million for the 2018 season.

Hyde, who joined the 49ers as a second-round pick in 2014, is coming off a 16-start season that saw him run 240 times for 938 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught a career-high 59 passes after catching 50 over his first three seasons in the league.

He’ll join Duke Johnson in the Browns backfield and will be part of an offense that’s also adding wide receiver Jarvis Landry and quarterback Tyrod Taylor in a pair of trades.

In addition, the Browns have added blocking tight end Darren Fells and offensive lineman Chris Hubbard and Donald Stephenson, with more moves possible as they await a decision from left tackle Joe Thomas on his future. ...

Lewis cashed in on his solid 2017 season in New England by agreeing to terms on a four-year contract with the Titans. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports the deal is worth $20 million with another $3 million in incentives.

What is new coordinator Matt LaFleur getting in Lewis?

According to's Chris Wesseling, no player rushed for more yards (625) in the second half of last season. Among all backs with 150 or more rushing attempts, his per-carry average of 4.98 yards led the NFL in 2017. While those numbers are great, Wesseling was quick to point out Lewis' size and injury history suggest he's best utilized as a role player working in tandem with a power back.

That will be the case in Nashville, where he figures to handle passing-down and change-of-pace duties as the ideal complement to Derrick Henry.

From a fantasy perspective, that's a problem. Neither man will have the kind of featured role we prefer. It doesn't preclude them from being strong performers; but it's by no means ideal. ...

As's Charean Williams first reported, Crowell agreed to a three year deal with the Jets, which seems to be an ideal situation for the power back.

Matt Forte, the Jets’ second-leading rusher, has retired. Their leading rusher, Bilal Powell, turns 30 in October.

Crowell, 25, spent four seasons in Cleveland. He had 737 carries for 3,118 yards and 21 touchdowns, while catching 96 passes for 770 yards and one touchdown. ...

Stewart signed with the New York Giants, the team announced Tuesday night. The veteran tailback, who will turn 31 on March 21, will reunite with former Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula and general manager Dave Gettleman in New York. The Panthers cut Stewart on Feb. 28. He is coming off one of his worst seasons statistically.

Stewart averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry (680 yards on 198 carries) during the 2017 season, and his total yards were his fewest since 2013, when he was limited by injuries.

His yards per carry ranked 32nd among the 34 running backs who had at least 150 carries last season, ahead of only Adrian Peterson and Ameer Abdullah, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Stewart's 3.55 yards per touch were the fewest by a running back with at least 200 touches in a season since BenJarvus Green-Ellis (3.47) and Rashard Mendenhall (3.49) in 2013.

So why Stewart?

The Giants ranked 26th in the league in rushing last season and it’s fair to wonder how much a soon-to-be 31-year-old back who ran for 3.4 yards per carry last year will change that. Of course, it would be fair to wonder how much any running back could do if the Giants continue to field a subpar offensive line but that’s another thing for Gettleman to deal with -- and he got off to a great start by agreeing to terms with Patriots LT Nate Solder this morning.

Meanwhile, it's worth noting Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins are the other backs currently under contract for the Giants as Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen are both headed for free agency.