The veteran running back market still is still sputtering, for the most part

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Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell will make more than $14.5 million this year under the franchise tag. 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon, the biggest winner in the free-agency class at the position, will average $7.5 million per year over four years, nearly half of Bell’s one-year amount.

Nearly a week into the free-agency process, here’s a breakdown of the new contracts for running backs, one of the strangest markets in all of football.

1. Jerick McKinnon, 49ers: Four years, $30 million, $7.5 million average, $11.7 million fully guaranteed at signing.

2. Carlos Hyde, Browns: Three years, $15.25 million, $5.083 million average, $5 million guaranteed at signing. (Hyde can trigger up to $1.5 million in escalators for 2019 and 2020 based on rushing yards, receiving yards, and touchdowns.)

3. Dion Lewis, Titans: Four years, $19.8 million, $4.95 million average, $6.75 fully guaranteed at signing. (Lewis can trigger up to $600,000 from 2019 through 2021 in escalators along with $600,000 in 2021 incentives, all based on rushing and receiving yards.)

4. Isaiah Crowell, Jets: Three years, $12 million, $4 million average, $4 million fully guaranteed at signing.

5. Jonathan Stewart, Giants: Two years, $6.9 million, $3.45 million average, $2.95 million fully guaranteed at signing.

6. Rex Burkhead, Patriots: Three years, $9.75 million, $3.25 million average, $4 million fully guaranteed at signing. (Burkhead can earn up to $1.25 million per year from 2018 through 2020 based on playing time and total yards.)

7. Chris Ivory, Bills: Two years, $5.5 million, $2.75 million average, $2.5 million fully guaranteed at signing.

8. LeGarrette Blount, Lions: One year, $2 million, $1 million fully guaranteed at signing. (Blount also can earn up to $2.5 million in incentives based on playing time, rushing yards, and touchdowns.)

9. Jeremy Hill, Patriots: One year, $1.5 million, $150,000 fully guaranteed at signing.

10. De'Anthony Thomas, Chiefs: One year, $880,000, $90,000 fully guaranteed at signing.

11. Travaris Cadet, Bills: One year, $880,000, $45,000 fully guaranteed at signing.

The Raiders signed running back Doug Martin and the Lions re-signed running back Zach Zenner, but details regarding their contracts have not yet been reported or released.

None of this year’s crop of free agents got to the top of the multi-year market, currently led by Falcons running back Devonta Freeman at $8.25 million per year and Bills running back LeSean McCoy at $8 million per year. Next year, with Bell possibly hitting the open market after six NFL seasons, it will be interesting to see whether he pushes the bar to $10 million per year.

18 responses to “The veteran running back market still is still sputtering, for the most part

  1. It’s amazing how the priority teams place on RBs and dollar amounts dedicated to them has changed over the past decade or so. Even just back in the 90s it seemed like every team focused on having a featured 1,000 yd back nearly as much as having a franchise QB. I suppose this is an unintentional byproduct of the league changing rules to assist the passing game.

  2. There has never really been a reason to overspend on a running back. Generational backs are extremely rare. You know, occurring maybe once per generation.
    There are almost always cheap, serviceable backs to be found in the draft. It’s one of the most plug and play positions on a team.
    No reason to spend big on a free agent back.

  3. its become the most underpaid position in the nfl. rookie running backs making around a mil a year are the engines of several teams offenses. more impact on offense than any single player other than qb

  4. goodellisaclown says:
    March 19, 2018 at 9:00 pm
    It’s amazing how the priority teams place on RBs and dollar amounts dedicated to them has changed over the past decade or so. ….. I suppose this is an unintentional byproduct of the league changing rules to assist the passing game.
    ________________________________

    This is not unintentional at all. The league changed the rules so they could ride the same “star” for as many years as possible. They realized that even the best RB’s could only last a maximum of 6-8 years, and then they would have to pick another “face” to market, but with a few changes to the rules they could ride a QB as the face of the NFL for well over a decade and maybe 2.

    So they went on a marketing campaign actively devaluing RB’s at every turn (so fans wouldn’t question why they were fundamentally changing the game). Interviews with talking heads and former players and experts all centered around how a Franchise QB was the most important piece and a RB was easily interchangeable. And then about 8 years or so ago (I could be wrong about the timing), after the table had been set – miraculously all RB’s contract extensions dropped significantly (and now average RB’s make the same as kickers).

    So there was nothing unintentional about what happened to RB’s. They changed the rules and marketing to place emphasis on the QB position and devalue the RB position for Marketing purposes – it had nothing to do with the integrity of the game, but how much easier it was to keep the same faces at the QB position as the flagship of the League.

    What we are seeing today as the NFL is really just the CFL with 4 downs and 11 people. QB’s can sling it around and the defense has to ensure they don’t hit too early, too high, too hard, too late, too low. All this allows even average QB’s to throw for over 4000 yards a year. Back in the 90’s you rarely had a QB throw for over 4000 yards in a season – John Elway had 1 x 4000 yard season, and Steve Young only had 2.

    So the passing game is much easier in today’s NFL, but come crunch time (November, December is when you find out who can actually play and who is better suited to padding stats).

  5. Steelers really showed the NFL how dumb they are by overpaying Bell. This is going to haunt them all season.

  6. RB are severely undervalued. A they don’t need time to develop and have short careers there is no reason RBs shouldn’t make top dollar right out the gate.
    They are used in runnning and Passing game as receivers and as blockers and guys who can’t do all three are liabilities. For all the hype about the passing game you have to be able to run the ball.
    Yes, the 1500 yd RB is mostly a thing of the past but the 950 catching 650 catching RB is the new normal and just as much a part of the offense.

  7. Disagree on two points… kickers can actually be as valuable or more valuable than the second tier of RBs. They score more points over a season and having. Clutch kicker who can knock through 50 yarders is important. Bills made playoffs after finally paying for kicker.

    That being said I also disagree with notion that Steelers are dumb for overpaying for Bell. He can do things well above an average back and can win games himself. He’s not someone you can replace with a 4th round draft pick and a good O-line.

  8. The value of a RB is hard to gauge, for years, Adrian Peterson was the best RB in football and the Vikings won a total of one playoff game in his prime. Maybe it was just the Vikings but having the best RB didn’t seem to make a difference.

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