NFL’s running back revolt has begun after Saquon Barkley drama

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports) /

Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor and more of the NFL’s top running backs called out the league on Twitter for undervaluing the position.

NFL running backs have a collective problem in 2023: No one wants to pay them.

The market for running backs has completely tanked this offseason. Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott were cut and remain without teams. Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard landed franchise tag tenders with long-term deals amenable to both the players and their teams feeling far away.

All the while discussion online turned to the value of running backs and whether it’s worth it for teams to pay them beyond their rookie deals.

Matt Miller of ESPN tweeted that the way to handle running back contracts is to draft one, play them, franchise tag them once if they’re good then move on to draft a new running back. That one did not go over well with running backs around the NFL.

Throughout Monday, running backs like Derrick Henry of the Titans, Christian McCaffrey of the 49ers, Jonathan Taylor of the Colts, Austin Ekeler of the Chargers and Najee Harris of the Steelers jumped to argue in favor of valuing and paying running backs as essential pieces towards winning.

NFL running backs unite to protest tanking market

The running backs argue that the position is critical to fielding a strong offense. And they’re right on that front. Having a capable ground game is essential to winning football games.

The trouble is the newest trend towards running back by committee and a wave of lucrative contracts that didn’t work out particularly well for the teams that handed them out.

Why spend money on a 27-year-old running back when you can get similar production for less money from a 22-year-old you just drafted or a collection of cheaper players?

Unfortunately, running backs are swimming upstream on this issue. Addressing the issue in the next CBA feels like the only solution.

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