What are we to make of the current state of modern NFL RBs?
There’s been a lot of news the past few weeks regarding the state of the runningback position in the NFL. Recently, the league’s top RBs met via Zoom to discuss the many incidents of established backs not receiving their fair share. The meeting was organized by Chargers runningback Austin Ekeler, and included Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley, and Nick Chubb among others. This is big considering Giants workhorse, Saquon Barkley recently pitched the idea of sitting out the upcoming season until he received a contract representative of his value.
All offseason, Jonathan Taylor has been vocal about receiving an extension. Since coming into the NFL, Taylor has been the focal point of the Colt’s offense. A workhorse at Wisconsin, many assumed that Taylor’s workload would take its toll despite him staying healthy in Madison. Although he battled injury last year, Taylor has shown the ability to stay healthy throughout the course of a season. This led to him being named to the All-Rookie Team in 2020, being a First Team All-Pro, a Pro-Bowl participant, and the NFL rushing yards and touchdowns leader all in 2021. Quite the resume for someone finishing their contract.
However, although Saquon has advocated for high guaranteed salaries for RBs, him recently signing an $11 million contract, barely higher than the franchise tag, isn’t a good look. Moreso, Taylor beginning training camp on the PUP list, after battling injuries last year is also distasteful.
What could this all mean for Taylor?
As of right now, the highest paid runningbacks, per their base salary, are Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, and Derrick Henry; all of whom are making equal or a fraction more than the franchise tag. If Taylor gets an extension I assume it’d average out to less than $10 million a year. I mean, just look at Dalvin Cook. He’s been a premier runningback in the league since coming out of FSU and he was recently cut. Still a talented player, Cook is finding difficulty being signed.
It isn’t these guys fault of course. Afterall, you can’t win without a good running attack. But nowadays, teams are finding ways have a good ground game by combining good coaching, a solid O-Line, and speed at the RB position. Just look at the Chiefs. Over the years, Kansas City’s put together a solid offensive front while spending a day 3 pick on Isiah Pacheco. And it isn’t just the Chiefs. Before the 49ers had McCaffrey, they had Elijah Mitchell, Raheem Mostert, and Matt Breida. And there’s more teams I could list as well.
As I said before, it isn’t these guys fault. They’re good players who deserve better contracts. Unfortunately for Taylor and his counterparts, they’re playing in a time where their position is being undervalued compared to other positions.
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