After four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, running back T.J. Yeldon has joined the Buffalo Bills. The NFL team announced on Monday that the former Alabama standout had signed a two-year contract.
Yeldon was a free agent after completing his four-year rookie contract with Jacksonville, which he joined as the 36th player picked in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Yeldon became the third free-agent running back signed this offseason by the Bills, joining Frank Gore and Senorise Perry, who each signed a one-year contract. The terms of Yeldon’s contract have not been released.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo’s starting running back for the past four seasons, is a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, but he’s coming off a season in which he had a career-low 514 rushing yards on 161 carries, his fewest rushing attempts since his rookie season in 2009. McCoy also is entering the final season of a five-year, $40 million contract.
The Bills’ leading rusher in 2018 was rookie quarterback Josh Allen, who ran for 631 yards and eight touchdowns on 89 carries.
After 14 NFL seasons, Gore ranks fourth in league history with 14,748 rushing yards. The five-time Pro Bowler got 722 yards of that total on 156 rushing attempts for the Miami Dolphins in 2018.
At 25, Yeldon is 10 years younger than Gore and five years younger than McCoy.
During his pre-draft press conference last week, Bills general manager Brandon Beane was asked about the possibility of drafting a running back because of the ages of Gore and McCoy.
“I don’t want to sit here and say we need it,” Beane said. “I get it. We’ve got two guys who are over 30. We’ve paid attention to it. But I still think there’s guys who are out there and even some in free agency still who can help who will get on teams and help them.”
Yeldon ran for 414 yards and one touchdown on 104 carries and caught 55 passes for 487 yards and four touchdowns for the Jaguars last season.
As a rookie, Yeldon led Jacksonville in rushing yards with 740 in 2015, when he had a career-high 182 carries even though he missed the final three games of the season with an MCL sprain. Yeldon led the Jaguars in rushing yards the next season, too, but his total dropped to 465 as he shared carries with Chris Ivory.
In 2017, Jacksonville used the fourth choice in the NFL Draft on LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who ran for 1,040 yards as a rookie. Yeldon’s production dropped to 253 yards on 49 carries as a hamstring injury kept him sidelined for six games.
For his NFL career, Yeldon has run for 1,872 yards and six touchdowns on 465 carries and caught 171 passes for 1,302 yards and six touchdowns.
At Daphne High School, Yeldon ran for 1,112 yards and 18 touchdowns and caught 34 passes for 504 yards and five touchdowns in 2010 for the Trojans’ AHSAA Class 6A championship team. The next season, Yeldon earned Alabama’s Mr. Football honor as he rolled up 2,193 rushing yards and scored 32 touchdowns to push his high-school totals to 4,653 rushing yards and 73 touchdowns.
Yeldon ran for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman to help Alabama win the BCS national championship in 2012. Yeldon ran for 3,322 yards and 37 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Crimson Tide.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.