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NFL Free Agency: The Oakland Raiders Should Consider These Three Running Backs in 2014

Yahoo Contributor Network
COMMENTARY | The calendar may say November, but it's never too soon to look ahead to next season.

And as it goes for the Oakland Raiders, looking ahead to next season is usually the most gratifying feeling of the year. But this year is different.

The Raiders are a different team this year, something that nobody thought would happen. At 3-5, they find themselves right in the middle of the AFC wild card discussion.

The defense has been much improved this year, and the rushing attack has paved the way for Oakland's offense. As it stands, the Raiders have the NFL's third-best rushing attack.

But once again, Darren McFadden is injured, and the Raiders can't rely on him to be their feature running back moving forward.

With nearly $70 million to spend in the offseason, the possibilities are pretty much endless for general manager Reggie McKenzie.

Here are three running backs the Raiders should consider in 2014:

Maurice Jones-Drew

Maurice Jones-Drew could not have been dealt any worse of a hand. The guy is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL, yet he's stuck in the awful mess that is the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With no quarterback and an offensive line that makes Oakland's look great, Jones-Drew is only averaging 3.2 yards per carry this year, a 1.5-yard dip from his career average of 4.7 yards per carry.

MJD only stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 210 pounds, but his ability to run hard while still performing well in the passing game makes him a hot commodity in free agency.

Too bad he has Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne throwing him the ball.

Jones-Drew has also been healthy for most of his career. With the exception of a season-ending foot injury last year, MJD has only missed three games since 2006.

Darren McFadden missed three last year.

The Raiders are on a path to success, and Jones-Drew doesn't want to stay in Jacksonville. He's only 28, and he still has at least five good years in the tank.

Oh yeah, he's also from the Bay Area.

Ben Tate

Since the Houston Texans drafted him in 2010, Ben Tate has always been in Arian Foster's shadow. After all, it's Arian Foster. But Tate has shown how valuable he can be when given the opportunity.

Tate finished with 942 yards and four touchdowns in 2011, all while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. But as Foster grabbed the spotlight, Tate became even less relevant by playing second-fiddle.

In eight games this year, Tate has 399 yards and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. That production is something Oakland could use as Darren McFadden has been extremely inconsistent the last two seasons.

Tate is also coming off the last year of his rookie contract, and since he's been backing up Foster for so long, he's not bound to get a ton of money in the offseason. If the Raiders are able to sign him, they'll get a very under-the-radar running back for a pretty good price.

Donald Brown

With Trent Richardson struggling, Donald Brown looks like the better running back for the Indianapolis Colts.

Brown's latest performance of 49 yards on just six carries against the Houston Texans is another positive mark on a very good season where he's averaged 6.3 yards per carry.

Like Ben Tate, Brown has never been fully able to exploit his talents. After all, Andrew Luck has emerged as one of the best and most efficient quarterbacks in the league, all the while Brown has been forced to share the backfield with the myriad of running backs the Colts have.

From 2009-10 and 2012, Brown also fared well in the passing game by averaging over 10 yards a reception. His dual-threat ability, combined with him peaking at the right time, makes this a smart pick for the Raiders if they can land him.

Steven Slivka covers the Oakland Raiders for the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow @StevenSlivka on Twitter

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