Running Backs

NFL Running Backs Are Being Squeezed Financially And Facing Football Extinction

In nearly every sports league, players’ roles change over the years. These days, professional football teams are devaluing running backs, and it does not look good for the men who are actual stars at that position.

Andscape reported that the recent contract negotiations for three of the top running backs in the NFL, Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys, and Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders, were not favorable for the players. Each, rightfully so, is looking for a long-term robust contract that will pay them a substantial salary based on their past and future performances. Yet all three teams assigned each player a one-year franchise tag.

According to Sporting News, an NFL team can give one player each year a franchise tag, which locks them in for that year. The team can pay the player a salary predetermined by the average contract of what’s paid at that position. A franchise tag also prevents a player from becoming an unrestricted free agent. This way, for the next contract year, the team holds on to the exclusive negotiating rights or matching rights over the player.

N. Jeremi Duru, a professor of sports law at American University, shared his thoughts on the NFL devaluing the running back position.

“What is happening with running backs is extraordinary,” Duru said in an email to Andscape. “Running back was a premier and valued position just a few years ago, and now the bottom is falling out.”

While football has shifted to favor the passing game, the running game is still vital to the league. But the teams are not paying like that is the case.

“The fact that elite backs in the league are calling for change and having organizational Zoom calls shows that this is a serious issue,” Duru wrote. “If they feel their particular needs are not being met by the NFLPA [the players’ union], which currently represents them as their union, labor law actually provides a path forward. But it is a narrow path.”

Running backs can resort to legal matters and try to settle it through forming their own union, but Duru said that not only would the NFL oppose the move, so would the NFLPA. So, for now, running backs may have to just deal with it unless the game changes to where it values the running back position once again.