In the past few years you might have heard something similar to the following, “the NFL no longer believes in the franchise running back. Its more of a running back by committee kind of league.”
Absolutely false. Couldn’t be more wrong. Are there teams that have a couple of running backs competing for carries? Yes. Do teams want at least two solid running backs on their roster? Yes. Every team wants depth, especially at a position where the injury risk is very high but to say the NFL doesn’t place as much importance on an impact position like running back as it used to it false.
If the league doesn’t believe in franchise runners anymore, then why are all these ‘backs getting new contracts? In 2010, Kansas City Chiefs‘ Jamaal Charles received a 5-year, $32.5 million dollar deal. Then the Carolina Panthers signed DeAngelo Williams to a five year contract worth $43 million dollars with $21 million guaranteed before the start of training camp last year.
The next domino to fall was Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, who ended his holdout when the team gave him a new contract for six years at $56 million, with about $30 million dollars guaranteed. Shortly after Johnson got his deal, the Minnesota Vikings signed Adrian Peterson to a 7-year deal worth $100 million, with $36 million guaranteed.
This off-season the long list of running backs that have secured big contracts includes Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte and Ray Rice. All of these players have received a contract that will pay them over $30 million dollars.
Let’s also not forget the players that already had financial security from their teams; players like San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, who was signed to an extension before last season, the St. Louis Rams‘ Steven Jackson and Atlanta Falcons runner Michael Turner. Each one of these players is a franchise running back.
Maurice Jones-Drew is holding out for a new deal from the Jacksonville Jaguars because he is seeing what is happening around the league where all these franchise running backs are getting paid and he wants in on the action.
The NFL hasn’t recently put a premium on using high draft picks for running backs but the Cleveland Browns made sure they would get the player they desperately wanted when they traded up just one spot for Trent Richardson, so its safe to say that Richardson is a franchise running back. And the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers each used first round picks on running backs, to go along with the New Orleans Saints, who drafted Mark Ingram in the first round last year.
Add all of this up and what gives anyone the impression the NFL doesn’t value franchise running backs? Teams are paying big money to keep their running backs and drafting them in the first round if they don’t already have one.
Yes, the NFL has become more of a passing oriented league but judging by the recent signings, plenty of teams agree, the franchise running back is still around. Alive and well.