This year, the top of the market has stagnated at $3.5 million per year for the likes of Toby Gerhart and Donald Brown (both of whom signed three-year contracts in Jacksonville and San Diego, respectively) and Ben Tate (who signed a two-year deal in Cleveland). For former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno, the best deal consisted of $2.5 million in signing bonus and base salary, along with another $500,000 in roster bonuses, per a source with knowledge of Moreno’s one-year contract in Miami.
That’s a max package of $3 million. For a guy who gained more than 1,000 yards in 2013.
It doesn’t bode well for Maurice Jones-Drew, who surely doesn’t like what he’s hearing now that he finally has made his way to the open market. Jones-Drew reportedly has expanded his search to include Oakland, which already has brought back Darren McFadden on a one-year deal worth $1.75 million, half the current market rate.
It also doesn’t bode well for Titans running back Chris Johnson, who’s destined to earn a lot less than $8 million in 2014 on a new team.
And at some point it may not bode well for Peterson, whose Vikings contract pays out $12 million, $13 million, $15 million, and $16 million over the next four years. Ditto for McCoy, who has cap numbers in Philly of $9.7 million, $11.95 million, $8.85 million, and $7.85 million from 2014 through 2017.
With so many running backs available for so much less money, either on the open market or in the draft, the days of the big-money tailback likely will end as soon as the Vikings and Eagles decide that the remaining abilities of Peterson and McCoy don’t justify the ongoing financial investment.