The biggest topic in football right now is running backs. More specifically: Running back pay. The devaluing of the position has been happening for some time now, but reached a fever pitch this offseason. Ezekiel Elliot and Dalvin Cook are both unsigned after being released, while Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs are set to play under franchise tags with the Giants and Raiders respectively not willing to sign their feature backs to long-term deals.
This situation is a mess with no good solution. Running backs absolutely need to be paid better so their best years aren’t wasted for free in college before playing under a rookie pay scale and being released. Meanwhile the best teams in the NFL are thriving without top-tier backs, making it a death knell to competitive hopes to commit too much money from the salary cap to a running back.
Running backs around the NFL lashed on Monday with the news that Barkley (who ran for over 1,300 yards last season) and Jacobs (who rushed for 1,653) aren’t worth big money to their teams.
At this point , just take the RB position out the game then . The ones that want to be great & work as hard as they can to give their all to an organization , just seems like it don’t even matter . I’m with every RB that’s fighting to get what they deserve . https://t.co/OgvBWZCKvn— Derrick Henry (@KingHenry_2) July 17, 2023
This is the kind of trash that has artificially devalued one of the most important positions in the game. Everyone knows it’s tough to win without a top RB and yet they act like we are discardable widgets. I support any RB doing whatever it takes to get his bag. https://t.co/sRYfAKwrpQ— Austin Ekeler (@AustinEkeler) July 17, 2023
1. If you’re good enough, they’ll find you.— Jonathan Taylor (@JayT23) July 17, 2023
2. If you work hard enough, you’ll succeed.
…If you succeed…
3. You boost the Organization
Doesn’t matter, you’re a RB https://t.co/mG6In1ATGg
This is Criminal. Three of the best PLAYERS in the entire league, regardless of position. https://t.co/zDXRS5cGdu— Christian McCaffrey (@CMC_22) July 17, 2023
I agree with my running back brothers around the NFL- history will show that you need running backs to win- we set the tone every game and run trough walls for our team and lead in many ways- this notion that we deserve less is a joke. https://t.co/rWJkGIEgmW— Najee Harris (@ohthatsNajee22) July 17, 2023
The writing is on the wall for most of these guys, as football stands right now. Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry got big-money extensions, but the rest are on the outside looking in. Austin Ekeler is set to be a free agent after this season, Najee Harris has two years left on his rookie deal, while Jonathan Taylor’s rookie contract expires after this season.
The reward for playing the most battered, physical position on offense for these players is the ever-growing reality that they’ll be franchise tagged, released and never get to realize the earning potential of other positions.
While it’s true that market sets the value, and football is cyclical — something needs to be done. Barkley, for instance, is poised to make $38.6M for his career if he’s unsigned after this season. That’s good money, sure, but not when Kyler Murray is set to make $39M for this single season alone.
Defensive tackle Daron Payne, who was taken 11 picks after Barkley in the 2018 NFL Draft has already signed a deal which will guarantee him a minimum of $82M over this career, with a max of $113M.
The players are right for speaking out.