Raheem Mostert, Damien Williams, Aaron Jones, and Derrick Henry. The starting running backs for the four top teams in the league. All grossly underpaid. In a league where quarterbacks rule and the collegiate spread offense is starting to take over running backs are becoming more and more devalued. Don’t believe me look at former Los Angeles Rams back Todd Gurley who was released earlier today just a few years after signing a $60 million dollar contract. While sure he’s battled injures so have a lot of players at a lot of positions but likewise, a lot of players at a lot of positions outside of kickers get a longer shot. Hurt and you’re gone. You want more money and don’t want to play under the franchise tag? Gone. Don’t believe me? The evidence is there.
Le’Veon Bell. As a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan I loved this man. He gave everything he had for the black and gold and helped us win a lot of games. As a second-round pick in the 2013 draft out of Michigan State, we thought we had a steal. In his first five years, Bell ran for 5,336 yards and 35 touchdowns so it was only right that when his contract came up that he wanted to be paid his worth. No problem right? Except there was.
As much as it pains me the Steelers are a notoriously cheap franchise only paying players they feel like they can’t easily replace. Unfortunately for Bell who had according to spotrac.com made a little under four million in his first four years it wasn’t enough for him to land the long term deal he wanted in Pittsburgh. So he played the following year under the tag earning $12,120,000 million while rushing for the second-most yards in his career 1,291 with nine touchdowns. Was that enough? No. After back and forth talks went nowhere the Steelers tagged him once again. Bell didn’t report, sat out the whole season and was traded to the New York Jets where he signed a four-year deal for $52.5 million.
Not enough? Look at Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott who after a stellar start to his career had to hold out INTO THE REGULAR SEASON to get his well deserved six-year $90 million dollar contract. During that time the Cowboys run game struggled despite having what some claim is the best offensive line in football. Look at the man Elliott replaced in DeMarco Murray who led the league in rushing but couldn’t get the deal he earned with the Cowboys jumping ship to rival Philadelphia Eagles. After a couple of lackluster years there he went to the Tennesse Titans where he quietly ended his career serving as more fuel to the fire for why running backs shouldn’t get big money. However, nobody talks about the schemes former Eagles coach Chip Kelly ran that didn’t fit Murray at all.
Speaking of Tennesse the Titians decided it was in their best interest to pay quarterback Ryan Tannehill, an average at best game manager who proved he couldn’t step up when needed not only with his old team the Miami Dolphins but in the AFC Championship loss to the Cheifs, giving him an undeserved four year $118 million dollar contract. That’s an average of $29.5 million a year. Meanwhile, workhorse Henry who was the main reason the Titians got as far as they did had to settle for a $10.2 million franchise tag despite rushing for 1,540 yards and SIXTEEN TOUCHDOWNS. Heck, even Green Bay Packers running back Jones who is currently still under his rookie contract might himself have a hard time getting what he deserves after rushing for 1,084 yards and sixteen touchdowns.
Finally look at the two teams in the Super Bowl, the San Fransico 49ers and the Kansas City Cheifs. Both led by strong quarterbacks, tight ends and defenses. Sure the running backs in that matchup Williams of the Cheifs and Mostert of the 49ers didn’t have the same numbers as the guys above they still had an impact on their team’s success. Mostert with a strong playoff performance and Williams with his 4.5 yards per carry and 30 catches. Williams is set to earn $1.85 million this season, Mostert $2.5 million. Do they deserve more? Yes.
At the end of the day no matter how much a running back earns their money they have to fight tooth and nail for it. Is it right? No. Is it fair? No. But hey you’re a running back in quarterbacks league. What do you expect?