Cory's Corner: Running Back Market Must Be Reset

The running back position has been taking on water for years. 

Ever since rules have been relaxed in order to protect quarterbacks, the running back instantly became devalued. 

We just saw it last year when Melvin Gordon missed all of the preseason and the first three games in order to get a better deal. He wanted a deal along the same lines as Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell. He put up pedestrian stats over 12 games and all of that only got him a two-year free agent contract with Denver. 

Now we've got Minnesota's Dalvin Cook who is upset about his contract situation. Cook has a legit beef, because he's the second-best running back in the NFC. 

According to Spotrac, the average salary for a running back is $1.582 million. The top 10 positional averages are quarterback ($4.90), left tackle ($3.61), defensive end ($2.84), defensive tackle ($2.573), center ($2.572), free safety ($2.31), outside linebacker ($2.28), inside linebacker ($2.27), right tackle ($2.22) and guard ($2.11). The running back position is being outspent by tight ends and even kickers.

What does that mean? It means that teams have proven that they don't want to spend big bucks for a running back — especially if a team is going to go with a timeshare approach instead of having one dominant bellcow back. 

What also doesn't help NFL running backs is that there are so many great running backs every year that enter the NFL Draft. Those college players have less miles on their legs and less wear and tear on their bodies, so if there's a choice between a pricey veteran and a cheaper rookie, many NFL teams have chosen the rookie route. That doesn't happen nearly as often with quarterbacks or left tackles. 

In the new collective bargaining agreement, there are raises for rookie minimums, but what needs to happen is a different price system for running backs. And the reason is simple. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average NFL career for a running back is only two years and five months, which is only ahead of wide receivers. That's why Bell's $15.4 million cap hit this year with the Jets is so surprising — especialy because he has had a plethora of injuries as he enters his seventh NFL season. 

If the market doesn't correct itself, there needs to be language that protects this position. Maybe have a minimum running back salary, especially because running backs take so much abuse on every play. 

Because without these things, what happens to the running back position moving forward? High school players are noticing how many running backs continually hold out and I wouldn't be surprised if many of those players make the eventual position switch to wide receiver. 

Which brings me to the ultimate question for the Packers: Does Green Bay re-sign Aaron Jones? There's no question that he is an excellent and dynamic force that keeps the offense humming. However, he is scheduled to be the No. 36 highest-paid running back this year according to cap hit. He's easily a top 10 back, but the Packers have been saving plenty of money, especially after leading the league with 16 rushing scores last year. Jones does love Green Bay, but does he love it enough to accept $8 million a year? That would make him the eighth-highest running back this year, but if Jones stays healthy and showcases his versatility once again, he should be getting $10 million a year. 

However, in a devalued running back market, I don't see the Packers paying that much. 

-------------------

Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

NFL Categories: 
3 points

Comments (30)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
marpag1's picture

June 13, 2020 at 06:50 am

LOL. Welcome to some dude's version of the NFL as a socialist utopia.

+ REPLY
14 points
14
0
Guam's picture

June 13, 2020 at 07:30 am

Brilliant response marpag1!!!! I was going to write a detailed rebuttal to the article and you said it all in one sentence.

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
nostradanus's picture

June 13, 2020 at 08:01 am

Haha that’s funny :)

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
Leatherhead's picture

June 13, 2020 at 10:41 am

Yes. We should engineer things so that they meet our concept of fairness.

Seriously, we’re not going to resign any of our FAs to contracts. Jordy, Cobb, Matthews, Bulaga.....how many times does something have to happen before people catch on..

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

June 13, 2020 at 01:28 pm

Each of those players were allowed to leave after being extended/resigned at least once.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Leatherhead's picture

June 13, 2020 at 02:36 pm

Not by this GM. He has resigned one guy, Lowry. Not anybody else. Not Martinez. Not Fackrell. Not any of the guys I mentioned. Not Daniels. And I’d be willing to bet that we’ll be adding Clark, Bakhtiari, Linsley and Jones will join that group.

Resigning his own guys is not his M.O. This GM would rather bring in guys from the outside: Smith, Smith, Amos, Wagner, Turner, Funchess.

+ REPLY
-2 points
0
2
dobber's picture

June 13, 2020 at 05:04 pm

"Not by this GM. He has resigned one guy, Lowry. Not anybody else."

You gotta point, there...

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Leatherhead's picture

June 13, 2020 at 02:50 pm

$8 million? For that money , you could have Alvin Kamara, Josh Jacobs, AND Nick Chubb.

Since you’re looking at Spotrac, maybe you can tell me how many of the Top Ten highest paid RBs made the playoffs last year? Answer = 2.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Coldworld's picture

June 13, 2020 at 11:40 am

Well said. If a team doesn’t value a position, then others will in FA. If the league doesn’t value a position it’s either for a good reason or some coaching mind will. If it has a positive impact, value will rise. Simple as that.

If Jones’ all round skills create enough value, someone will pay him. If his skills in the passing game and extreme elusiveness are seen as being as unique as some of us think, he can break the mold. It’s value to an offense not position at that point, coupled with physical assessment of course.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
OldPackerFan's picture

June 13, 2020 at 07:25 am

All positions are subject to the forces of the marketplace. If the NFL trends back to being dominated by running backs, they will get paid. The current fixation on passing makes QBs and pass-catchers more valuable. If 8 million is on the table, I would encourage Aaron Jones to "take the money and run". In 3 years he will likely be where Eddie Lacy is today, outside looking in. The NFL is a young man's game.

+ REPLY
8 points
8
0
stockholder's picture

June 13, 2020 at 07:50 am

Pay Defense, Draft Offense. It's still that simple. If Jones isn't greedy, he can get more out the packers in the Long Run.

+ REPLY
4 points
5
1
nostradanus's picture

June 13, 2020 at 08:13 am

That Packers have always treated their players fairly when it comes contract time. If Jones is willing to sign a three year deal commensurate with his accomplishments in the NFL and its in the Packers wheelhouse they will strike a deal.
The Packers gained leverage with the drafting of Dillon, that’s just good business. They know very well they can’t keep everybody and they are paying their quarterback handsomely. If some other team offers Jones a kings ransom for his services then so be it.
For a while the safety position was highly underpaid and that turned around. The NFL is cyclical in nature and falsely inflating the running back position pay structure just because other positions are higher valued is a fools errand. Most of these teams that have overpaid for running back’s have been sorry that they did it.
That is all

+ REPLY
7 points
7
0
Turophile's picture

June 13, 2020 at 10:22 am

Props to you Cory, for putting a number on Jones ($8m). Good explanation of the value of the position relative to others, as well.

It would be nice to see a quartet of Jones, Williams, Dillon and Ervin (on ST) in 2020. LaFleur is fulfilling his promise of a real commitment to the run game.

+ REPLY
-1 points
2
3
dblbogey's picture

June 13, 2020 at 01:29 pm

The right side of our OL worries me. I'm hoping 1 of the 3 OL drafted turns out to be a player. Right tackle is shaky at best, and if Bakhtieri goes down we've got nothing. Hoping for the best.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Leatherhead's picture

June 14, 2020 at 12:49 pm

The right side of our offensive line includes two veterans who have demonstrated over several years that they can get the job done. That's why the GM signed them.

Shaky at best? Hardly. Wagner has been a solid starter since he was drafted. His strength is as a run blocker.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Tarynfor12's picture

June 13, 2020 at 10:41 am

Salaries for every position are basically reset yearly and that is based on the increase of the salary cap yearly. The way things are looking, things will be reset next year to the dismay of many a player, regardless of position, except perhaps a couple at QB. This may be a one-year reset or it could be the start of a whole new way the salary cap is looked at going forward overall.

+ REPLY
3 points
4
1
Johnblood27's picture

June 13, 2020 at 11:30 am

set the cap based on overall economics (as is currently done by negotiation).

Pay each position a set amount for starters, second string and so forth.

Reserve a significant amount of money for performance based incentive pay to be distributed at the end of the season.

Increase the playoff payouts to incentivize winning. Deduct this from the "kitty" used in negotiating the salary cap.

This is a crude outline of how to put competition between teams back into a "fantasy" driven individualistic current system. The market for player/position salaries being driven by the league-wide decisions is just stoopid an unrealistic for sustainability in a salary cap world.

The product for the fans has to become a concern somewhere here. The competition between teams is the true driver.

In case you cannot tell, my 5 years of fantasy football league participation has left me with a distaste for the type of fandom that endeavor promotes. I quit completely over 10 years ago and it has just gotten worse.

+ REPLY
-1 points
1
2
ricky's picture

June 13, 2020 at 01:31 pm

Some teams do go with the "bell cow" back, such as Dallas and Demarco Murray, now Ezekiel Elliott, or the Titans and Derrick Henry. Give them a ton of carries, keep them around until they are so worn down they will never be physically the same again, then dump them and get a younger version. It's not pretty or nice, but it is the reality. If, however, you're in a "running back by committee", where you might last longer and stay relatively healthier, you can expect to be paid less. There is the trade off: get paid a lot more, but pay for it the rest of your life; get paid slightly less, but have a chance at being able to function relatively normally.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
ricky's picture

June 13, 2020 at 01:31 pm

Some teams do go with the "bell cow" back, such as Dallas and Demarco Murray, now Ezekiel Elliott, or the Titans and Derrick Henry. Give them a ton of carries, keep them around until they are so worn down they will never be physically the same again, then dump them and get a younger version. It's not pretty or nice, but it is the reality. If, however, you're in a "running back by committee", where you might last longer and stay relatively healthier, you can expect to be paid less. There is the trade off: get paid a lot more, but pay for it the rest of your life; get paid slightly less, but have a chance at being able to function relatively normally.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

June 13, 2020 at 01:35 pm

"If the market doesn't correct itself, there needs to be language that protects this position. Maybe have a minimum running back salary, especially because running backs take so much abuse on every play. "

That's right: if you don't destroy your own cap by making the decision to overpay a player that the odds say is not likely to see the end of his contract, the league will MAKE you do it.

I would argue that the market HAS corrected itself, and lower pay for the RB position--in general--is the result.

+ REPLY
10 points
10
0
marpag1's picture

June 13, 2020 at 03:28 pm

Ding!

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
PackerGold's picture

June 13, 2020 at 07:17 pm

The RB position will continue to be a valued position. Coaches like jerry jones track hits taken by a RB, as a key parameter in regarding drafting or Free Agency. I think it was a couple years ago the back-up RB at Alabama was the valued community. Why? Very few hits in college. fresh Knees and ankles. He was a 4-5 Star athlete coming out of college.

In regards Jones, Is he a good RB? Yes. Would I break the bank over Jones? No. However drafting a No. 12 RB - Dillon with the 2nd Round No. 62 pick when most coaches had him going in the 4th or 5th round is not getting good Value. I see Dillon as a boom or bust RB.

The speed of NFL defenses across the league have changed the dynamics of offenses across the board. Can a team live by the run in 2020? I don't think so. A 10-12 minute drive and you are only going to get 4-5 touches per game; that's if the defense holds the other team. I believe that is why LaFluer has come out and said, he will not move away from the pass but compliment the passing game. Whether LaFluer came to that conclusion or someone higher up help facilitate that decision is unknown.

+ REPLY
0 points
1
1
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 14, 2020 at 05:31 am

The prime years for an RB are what, years 2 or 3 through 5 or 6. That second contract can be for big money, but it just can't be guaranteed. It has to go year by year to get the really big money.

I think second RB contracts will be for one year guaranteed and a team option for a big salary for year two, but nothing guaranteed in year two. The Petersons on the world still make a ton and those who get injured lose out. I'd be fine with $10M guaranteed for Aaron Jones in 2021 and a team option for $13M (none guaranteed) for 2022. Yes, there would be rolling re-negotiations and uncertainty for the teams and also for the player's financial security. That's a fair trade-off.

+ REPLY
-1 points
2
3
murf7777's picture

June 14, 2020 at 09:05 am

TGR, normally I agree with your thinking, but not this one. More important is signing Bak, Clarke and to a lessor degree King. You know better then most we won’t be able to sign all 4. I think Jones would be smart to take an Eckler type of contract from the Packers. If he sticks to being a 3rd down type of RB his career could be lengthened similar to James white. I would have no problem with a 10-12M guarantee if it were 4years 24M. With all the top RB’s coming out next year, the drafting of Dillon and possible SC change the leverage is with the Packers.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
Leatherhead's picture

June 14, 2020 at 01:05 pm

I don't think we drafted Dillon to sit behind Jones and I don't think it makes much sense to pay $10 million for a committee back.

We already have 50% of our 2021 cap committed to a handful of players..... Rodgers, Adams, Smith, Smith, Amos. That's without resigning ANY of our own FAs. We're not going to be offering 8 digit deals to anybody,IMO.

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
PhantomII's picture

June 14, 2020 at 03:11 pm

I categorize A.Jones as a weapon he is both a RB/WR which ever way they use him something special is about to happen. I don't want to see him running more than 50% of the time because of how dangerous he is in receiving game and I want his career to last longer than the one special year we had last year. He was a top 3 RB last year in TD's. Him along with Dillon at the same time should benefit both. Defense will have to load the box with bigger LB's to stop Dillon and Jones to exploit them in the passing game. Jones is the best dual RB/WR the pack has had since A.Green....Period. Make him a descent offer 3 yrs./ 2 guaranteed money.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Duneslick's picture

June 15, 2020 at 12:38 pm

If you sign Jones who do you not sign. BaK Clark King I think they would be wise to let Jones and Lindlsey go and try to sign the rest. You cant have them all

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
PhantomII's picture

June 15, 2020 at 07:20 pm

Looks to me Gute is in a youth movement on the OL. Bak is next oldest player. Lindsley is gone next year, probably Turner also. LT's don't grow on trees but this is moving more to a run offense and as good as Bak is at pass blocking he's not elite at run blocking. He will make a lot of money next year.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
mnbadger's picture

June 16, 2020 at 08:54 pm

Corey L and Bakh are gone. I say trade bakh this year while his value is still at a peak, he'll be fine. We need draft picks for impact players.
I'd rather trade him than have to lose a bunch of games to draft higher.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
mnbadger's picture

June 17, 2020 at 01:23 pm

Corey L and Bakh are gone. Can't afford to keep them. I say trade bakh this year while his value is still at a peak, he'll be fine. We need draft picks for impact players.
I'd rather trade him than have to lose a bunch of games to draft higher.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0

Log in to comment and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.