NFL Running Backs Struggle to Prove their Worth

Bobby Willmot
Staff Writer

Change is constant in the NFL, from certain rules, to amounts of money being spent, headlines are made daily as the game constantly evolves. Of these changes, increases in contract values and the value of the players is continuing to evolve. This has been seen with star quarterbacks signing contracts upwards of $50 million a year. With countless record breaking contracts being signed during the preseason and at the start of the season, one vital position is not being shown the same money. These massive contracts signed by the the league’s elite quarterbacks are not being given out to the players behind them. Coming into this season there has been a visible difference in attitude for many star running backs and their ability to receive the money they believe they are deserving of.

Star running back Ezekiel Elliot with his new team, the New England Patriots (Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)

This has led to many changes leaguewide as many teams are starting to change how they view a running back’s value. This has been seen with countless running backs including the New York Giant’s Saquon Barkley, former Cowboy Ezekiel Elliot, and countless other running backs. During the off season the Dallas Cowboys let go of seven season and two-time all-pro running back Ezekiel Elliot with mutual agreements where Elliot would try his hand in free agency. During this time Elliot received very little attention and was eventually picked up by the New England Patriots to be their backup running back. Despite his unique skillset and pedigree, Elliott had troubles finding a new home for his talents.
Similarly, during his nine months of negotiations with the New York Giants, Saquon Barkley was not granted the franchise tag and continued negotiations landed him a one-year, 10.9 million dollar contract. Several other running backs have ran into increased issues in contract negotiations as well including Tony Pollard of Dallas, Josh Jacobs of Vegas, and Jonathan Taylor of Indianapolis. Taylor is the most

Indianapolis Colts star running back Jonathan Taylor (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

recent example of these issues as due to the Indianapolis Colts not wanting to meet Taylor’s demands with a new extension, Taylor has decided to sit out at least the first four games of the 2023 regular season. Jacobs and Pollard were both able to find new contracts with their respective teams, but like Barkley, they were well short of the initial demands both running backs had set for their respective teams. Pollard signed a one-year, $10.09 million contract with Dallas this past offseason, and even without Elliot being on Dallas, Pollard had to struggle to prove Dallas that he was worth keeping. Jacobs signed an identical contract with Las Vegas that Pollard was able to get out of Dallas.

This continued uncertainty for running backs within the league is being shown to some of its most talented in the position and poses a question for the future of running backs. This may be due to the aging of these players and the potential downswing of production. With Barkley at age 26, and Elliot at age 28 views on veteran running backs are changing. Despite this age being the prime of many other positions, running backs receive lots of damage and use with each individual carry, which limits their ability to survive in the league. Despite many of these players being the stars in their positions, many teams are taking newer younger running backs for cheaper.

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