5 free-agent running backs the Panthers should target in 2021

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Mark Ingram
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Mark Ingram /
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Carolina Panthers
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Mike Davis /

Which running backs could the Carolina Panthers target in 2021 free agency if Mike Davis departs?

If the Carolina Panthers took one thing from the 2020 season, it would be their need for a solid option behind Christian McCaffrey. The All-Pro running back turned out in just three games over the campaign thanks to shoulder, ankle, and quad problems, which were the first games he’d missed as a professional since arriving at the next level in 2017.

Thankfully for the Panthers, they got some impressive production from Mike Davis. The veteran battled hard to earn a roster spot in training camp and made the most out of his opportunity in a starting role to accumulate more than 1,000 all-purpose yards for the first time.

This won’t have gone unnoticed by other NFL teams looking to bolster depth at the position in free agency. Davis is sure to get good money elsewhere, which would leave the Panthers with just Reggie Bonnafon, Trenton Cannon, and undrafted free-agent Rodney Smith behind McCaffrey unless reinforcements are made.

The speculation linking McCaffrey to the Houston Texans as possible trade bait in Carolina’s pursuit of Deshaun Watson has been rampant over the last couple of weeks. If the Panthers did end up going in this direction, it would make running back one of their top priorities in free agency or the 2021 NFL Draft.

With that being said, let’s take a look at five possible targets for Carolina in free agency.

Running Back No. 1

Carolina Panthers
(Syndication: Akron Beacon) Gus Edwards /

Gus Edwards

  • 2020 team – Baltimore Ravens

Gus Edwards continues to be a model of consistency for the Baltimore Ravens despite not ever becoming the No. 1 option in their rushing attack. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is their main focal point – and rightfully so – with promising rookie J.K. Dobbins set to assume command of the depth chart’s top spot in 2021.

Edwards is out of contract this spring and might be looking for a more prominent role elsewhere. He possesses the dual-threat ability that is a hot commodity across the league currently and has amassed 2,152 rushing yards from just 414 carries during his first three years in the NFL.

The former Rutgers standout averages 5.2 yards-per-carry and has 10 combined touchdowns to his name to further enhance his overall credentials. Edwards would be a tremendous option for the Carolina Panthers if Davis does depart and is well worth a look providing the price is right.