Everyone who has not lived under a rock knows what’s going on in the NFL between the running backs and their respective team’s owners. For those who don’t, the running backs feel like they are worth more money than the owners are offering. I understand both sides of the debate and from the outside looking in, I have a suggestion. Two-year deals for running backs, front-loading the first year.
The Most Recent Issues of Running Backs and the NFL
I have seen this coming for about two years now. Running backs are not happy with their contracts. They take a massive beating during the season and they are an essential piece to an offense. The owners feel that it is better for them to give them one-year franchise tags.
Since the running backs take such a beating throughout a season the risk of them getting hurt or wearing down is higher than a lot of the other positions on the field. The elite running backs like Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley, and Jonathan Taylor were among the ones who were disgruntled about their contracts, and negotiations between them and their respective owners at some point or another went sour.
Austin Ekeler Vs. The Chargers
After having back-to-back elite seasons with the Chargers in 2021 and 2022 Ekeler was looking for an extension with the team. Contract negotiations did not go well but they ended up settling on adding incentives to the last year of this contract, that is after Ekeler was allowed to go and test the market for a trade. Now in this situation, it is hard to ignore the fact that within the last two seasons, he was able to put up 38 combined touchdowns and was vital to the Chargers’ offense. It is also hard to ignore that running back football life is not the longest.
Ekeler is 28 years old and has played six years in the NFL. So with his age and the high risk of injury in the position that he is playing, I understand the risk that the organization would be taking but I also understand the talent and how valuable he is to the offense. So why not give a two-year deal to the running back? I think a two-year deal could be good for both parties involved. Gives Ekeler security and it is what he deserves it would protect the Chargers as well because of the injury risk at the position and the amount of work that this rubbing back would get.
Saquon Barkley Vs. The Giants
The next running back that I want to discuss is Saquon Barkley. During the offseason, the Giants organization put the franchise tag on Barkley. This tag would have had Barkley making $10 million this year. He and the Giants had a dispute about a new contract. The Giants had offered Barkley $13 million a year, getting a total of $26 million over the first two years of the contract. Saquon Barkley wanted $16 million per year. The Giants were not going to go higher than that so Barkley chose to sit out most of training camp. The two parties stayed in constant communication determined to come up with something.
Barkley was definitely the engine that made that offense drive, let’s keep in mind that, yes when Barkley is on the field he is very electric, but he has also had his fair share of injuries. Those injuries are more than likely part of the reason why Barkley didn’t get that $16 million a year that he was asking for. Instead, he agreed to a one-year $12 million incentive-based contract.
Jonathan Taylor Vs. The Colts
Taylor’s situation is probably the ugliest out of all of these running-back situations. Now Jonathan Taylor is still on his rookie contract but is asking for an extension. The Colts are really playing hardball with him. He is an electric workhorse running back with two outstanding seasons under his belt, and one season that was underwhelming due to an ankle injury. Now because he isn’t happy that contract talks are not going his way and the two parties are not able to meet on terms the Colts are willing to trade him. This has been an ugly situation from the beginning of it. Right now Taylor is on the PUP list so he has to sit four games because he is still dealing with an injury, or is he?
The problem is a lot of these running backs feel like they are worth more than what they are receiving. A lot of them are, also real engines for their respective teams. NFL owners are devaluing their position in today’s NFL. It definitely shouldn’t be devalued because there are great runningbacks out there that have proven their worth and are deserving of new contracts that are worth some good to great money.
On the other hand, the position is really brutal and the shelf life of runningbacks is not long. The three runningbacks that I have discussed are not even playing as I am writing this article due to injuries. Now I’m not completely sure how the CBA works but I am quite sure that there is some middle ground that the two parties involved can come up with. My suggestion is two-year contracts first year should be front-loaded. Let’s make these running backs happy they are extremely important to the game.