NFL teams are refusing to pay running backs. That reflects the pass-first direction of the league

by Chloe Baker
NFL Running Backs Contracts

NFL teams are increasingly declining to offer running backs high-value, long-term deals, causing discontent among the most talented players in the position who feel overlooked and undervalued.

The current scenario is hardly unexpected given recent trends in the game.

The era of “three yards and a cloud of dust” seems a distant memory now. The NFL has morphed into a pass-first, quarterback-centric league characterized by explosive offensive strategies.

Changes to league rules over the last twenty years have been designed to amplify scoring. Quarterbacks now enjoy greater protection. Wide receivers have more liberty to traverse the field. Defensive players have become wary of being penalized for illegal tackles. Rules restrict going too low, hitting the helmet, holding, and tugging jerseys.

As a result, running backs — despite their considerable value, adaptability, and duties — are being increasingly marginalized.

Notable players such as Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard will participate in the 2023 season under the franchise tag-mandated salary of $10.1 million, after unsuccessful negotiations with their teams for multiyear contracts prior to Monday’s deadline.

The decision triggered a wave of discontent.

Derrick Henry, a renowned player for the Tennessee Titans, expressed his displeasure on Twitter, arguing for the removal of the running back position if it’s not going to be valued. Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers criticized the disregard for running backs despite their significant contribution to victories.

Barkley observed with dissatisfaction as the New York Giants offered Daniel Jones a hefty $160 million, four-year contract while his own salary remained a fraction of that, despite his pivotal role in propelling the team to the playoffs the previous season.

The frustration among players was palpable on social media platforms.

Historically, NFL offenses heavily depended on running backs such as Jim Brown, Jim Taylor, Walter Payton, and Emmitt Smith, who collectively contributed to nine championships. Today, however, Super Bowl victories are being achieved without a leading runner.

In fact, only three of the Super Bowl champions in the last 15 years boasted a 1,000-yard rusher in the regular season compared to 11 in the 15 seasons before that.

Star quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are key reasons why teams are now less reliant on running backs. The Kansas City Chiefs, led by Mahomes, clinched two Super Bowl titles in the past four years with Isiah Pacheco, a seventh-round pick, and Damien Williams, an undrafted free agent, serving as the primary backs.

Over the years, Super Bowl champions have seen 30 1,000-yard rushers during the season, starting with the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, which had two — Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. In the subsequent 20 seasons, barring the strike-shortened 1981, 16 Super Bowl champions had 1,000-yard rushers.

Nevertheless, the times are changing. More teams, like last season’s Philadelphia Eagles, are finding success with a group of rotating backs.

While celebrated running backs like Henry and Christian McCaffrey received lucrative second contracts, Barkley and Jacobs did not. Despite their evident worth, teams seem to have the upper hand in these negotiations.

Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi

AP NFL: https://bigbignews.net/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about NFL Running Backs Contracts

Why are NFL teams refusing to give running backs lucrative long-term contracts?

The NFL has transitioned into a pass-first, quarterback-driven league. Changes in the league rules to enhance scoring have made quarterbacks and wide receivers more protected and valuable. As a result, running backs — despite their overall value and responsibilities — are increasingly being marginalized.

What has been the reaction of the running backs to this trend?

Running backs such as Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard, who are playing under the franchise tag-mandated salary, have expressed their frustration and discontent. High-profile players like Derrick Henry and Austin Ekeler have publicly supported their colleagues, arguing for greater recognition and remuneration for their roles.

How have the league rules changed over the past two decades?

Over the past two decades, the rules have been altered to enhance scoring. Quarterbacks are given more protection, wide receivers have more freedom on the field, and defensive players face potential penalties for illegal hits, including going too low, hitting the helmet, holding, and tugging jerseys.

How has the role of running backs in NFL teams changed?

Historically, NFL offenses heavily relied on running backs. However, in recent years, Super Bowl victories are being achieved without a leading runner. Teams are becoming more successful with a rotation of backs rather than a single dominant runner.

Are there any high-profile running backs who have received big contracts recently?

While running backs like Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey received lucrative second contracts, others such as Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs did not receive similar offers. Despite their evident worth and contribution to their teams, it appears that clubs are gaining the upper hand in these negotiations.

More about NFL Running Backs Contracts

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sportsguru23 July 19, 2023 - 12:16 pm

lol, running backs need to stop complaining. the game has changed, it’s all about the pass now. QBs are the stars. adapt or get left behind. #PassFirstLeague

giantfan4life July 19, 2023 - 7:55 pm

saquon barkley deserves a big contract! he carried the giants last season and they pay daniel jones more? what a joke. pay the man his worth! #PaySaquon

footballlover22 July 20, 2023 - 5:04 am

i miss the old days when running backs ruled the league. jim brown, walter payton, legends of the game. now it’s all about passing. things have changed, not always for the better. #RunningBacksForever

footballfan98 July 20, 2023 - 5:43 am

nfl teams refusing to pay running backs? so unfair. they the ones who carry the team! quarterbacks get all the glory but the running backs do all the hard work. smh. #RespectTheRBs

chargersfan12 July 20, 2023 - 7:07 am

austin ekeler is right! running backs are not discardable widgets. they are the heartbeat of the offense. show them some respect and pay them what they deserve! #RBsDeserveBetter


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