I have some interesting theories (or, at least, I think they are interesting) on what the Vikings should do at running back this year.  The truth is that those theories don’t really involve free agency, however, which probably isn’t all that surprising provided that Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart still sit atop the depth chart at the position.

Still, in the spirit of the offseason, I have put together my free agent ranking at the position.

Top Tier

I would be surprised to see the Vikings spend big money on a running back, as I mentioned already, but there is no denying that the traits of certain pending free agents could be attractive.  A running back that possesses an extra ability to contribute in the passing game or special teams may warrant some consideration, especially if Rick Spielman ends up dealing Percy Harvin to another team.

That is the reason that Reggie Bush tops my running back rankings for the Vikings.  I have long said that Harvin and Bush are two very similar players, despite officially playing different positions, and Vikings fans can remember all too well how Bush is capable of making a difference as a return man and slot receiver.  Besides, in Miami he was really able to come into his own as a true running back and managed to be relatively durable.

Second Tier

My second tier of running backs all possess special teams value, and pass catching abilities, that give the Vikings something they don’t already have in Peterson or Gerhart.

2.  Felix Jones, DAL

3.  LaRod Stephens-Howling, ARI

4.  Darius Reynaud, TEN

The Rest

Considering that the Vikings may not even be searching for a third running back this offseason, it the rest of this group either seems highly unlikely or completely interchangeable.  Here are the rest of the free agent running backs that could be available in March:

5.  Steven Jackson, STL

6.  Mike Goodson, OAK

7.  Peyton Hillis, KC

8.  Shonn Greene, NYJ

9.  Rashard Mendenhall, PIT

10.  Danny Woodhead, NE

11.  Kevin Smith, DET

12.  Tashard Choice, BUF

13.  Javon Ringer, TEN

14.  Justin Forsett, HOU

15.  Cedric Peerman, CIN

16.  Bernard Scott, CIN

17.  Kregg Lumpkin, NYG

18.  Jalen Parmele, JAC

19.  Jackie Battle, SD

20.  Brian Leonard, CIN

21.  Rashard Jennings, JAC

22.  Kahlil Bell, CHI

23.  Ronnie Brown, SD

24.  Stefan Logan, DET

25.  Brandon Jackson, CLE

26.  Cedric Benson, GB

27.  Jerome Harrison, DET

28.  Mewelde Moore, IND

29.  Ryan Grant, GB

Restricted Free Agents

As you can see, the running back market is already set to be quite saturated even before a new class of rookie enter the picture via the Draft, so it is even more unlikely that we will see the Vikings try to sign any restricted free agents to offer sheets.

The restricted free agents for 2013 are:  Isaac Redman, Andre Brown, Chris Ivory, Jonathan Dwyer, Ryan Torain, Chris Ogbonnaya, Antone Smith, Curtis Brinkley, Lance Ball, and LaGarrette Blount.

Of course, if any of these guys are not tendered by their respective teams then they may end up in the unrestricted free agent pool.