The NFL has a Running Back Dilemma

Giants at Redskins 12/09/18

Elite NFL running backs, and I mean elite running backs, are not getting paid in the NFL. It is an issue that could cause some of the top players at the position to hold out and could even cause some of them to be left off rosters at least for 2023 but potentially forever. Let’s dive into this current issue in the NFL.

Not too long ago guards and safeties had issues in the NFL getting paid what they believed they deserved and now that is true of running backs. Running backs are some of the most popular players in the league but may not effect winning that much anymore.

Kansas City just won a Super Bowl with a 7th round rookie running back and cheap veteran in Jerrick Mckinnon. The year before last the Rams did it without an elite running back, and before that the Buccaneers did with a running back currently without a team. We have to go back to the 2014 Super Bowl when an elite running back helped his team win a championship in Marshawn Lynch with the Seahawks. Even he didn’t lead his team in rushing in that Super Bowl though and he had just 39 yards on the ground.

This upcoming season it has been known that Saquon Barkley has wanted a contract extension but instead has been put on a franchise tag for $10 million per season. Now $10 million per year is nothing to scoff at but Joe Mixon, Derrick Henry, and Nick Chubb all make significantly more than that from deals they signed years ago. The same issue is going on for Josh Jacobs (last year’s rushing leader) and Tony Pollard.

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There are even players who were seen as stars just last year now without a team because the current running-back market is so bad. These guys include Ezekiel Elliot and Dalvin Cook. This year Carolina signed Miles Sanders to a four-year $25 million contract which now looks like an overpay.

To fix this scenario running backs need to find a way to have a bigger impact on winning. For the teams winning the Super Bowl recently it has been all about their quarterback, wide receivers, line, and tight end play. Running back may be valued last. Average running backs like Sony Michel for the Rams in 2022 or Pacheco can be used as a lead back for around $1 million per year, or less in the case of Pacheco, and win you a Super Bowl.

Until a team makes it to the Super Bowl or wins it with an elite running back, this narrative of having a solid but average running back as your starter may be an ongoing trend.

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