What’s a top running back worth in today’s NFL? Murray will find out

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The NFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year is 27 years old, in his prime, and about to hit unrestricted free agency. If any running back can make a fortune in today’s NFL, it’s DeMarco Murray.

But Murray may discover that no running back can make a fortune in today’s NFL. At least, not “a fortune” compared to what the top free agents at other positions will make.

Murray, the soon-to-be free agent Cowboy who led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards last season, will give us a good benchmark for how much a running back can command in today’s NFL. Unfortunately for Murray, the answer will be, “Nowhere near as much as a running back could command in yesterday’s NFL.”

There is almost no chance that Murray will get as much as the seven-year, $96 million contract (with $36 million guaranteed) that Adrian Peterson got from the Vikings in 2011, the biggest contract ever for a running back. That’s despite the fact that Peterson wasn’t a free agent at the time and could therefore negotiate only with the Vikings, and despite the fact that the NFL salary cap has risen from $120 million in 2011 to $143 million this year.

Murray may do quite well for himself, perhaps getting the second-biggest contract for a running back in NFL history. But there’s no way he’ll get as much as this year’s top free agent, Ndamukong Suh, and he may not do as well as the next group of free agents, like Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, Patriots safety Devin McCourty, Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes and Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds.

Running backs just don’t make the kind of money that players at other positions can make. In the NFL, running backs are viewed as lower-priced commodities. Even a running back who just won Offensive Player of the Year.

94 responses to “What’s a top running back worth in today’s NFL? Murray will find out

  1. It will be interesting to see who is in more demand, DeMarco or Adrian. You can expect essentially the same number of all purpose yards, but one is much younger and comes with less baggage.

  2. Funny how all of the playoff teams have a good running game yet the running game is considered an afterthought. I’d sign Murray.

  3. The vikings sign peterson to that type of contract when they had no one other to compete with? Is it any wonder why they have been a bottom dweller since then? Now the question remains will anyone else be as stupid and give Murray a ton of cash?

  4. RB’s a dime a dozen. There are 100 guys out there that can get you 1200 yards as long as you have a decent OL. This guy ran the ball like 800 times last year. He will be damaged goods real soon.

  5. Runningbacks are a bargain right now for teams, like safety’s used to be. DeMarco Murray can do more to win a game for you than Suh can. Both are great players.

  6. Good luck to you, DeMarco!! You are a class act! However, I really, really, hope you come back to the ‘Boys 😦 The business part of this really is the pits 😦

  7. He’s like a 2009 Porsche with 120,000 miles on the odometer. It looks good, still has power but the mechanic is waiting in the wings with a big smile on his face.

  8. This young man was probably thinking…”hey, I’m coming off my best season as a Pro, my body feels pretty good and I’m running behind a dominant offensive line…life is pretty good…cha ching”

  9. I would be surprised if he gets north of 10 million per year.

    My guess will be the biggest offer comes in at 5 years 50 million with a nice bonus.

  10. It is odd how things change and develop in the NFL. The prevailing wisdom is that a good running game and a stout defense wins championships, but running backs are seen as fungible. Tackles make more money. Perhaps it has to do with the view that running backs are fragile and that their careers are often short. We remember Barry Sanders and not Walter Payton. Of course a QB who handles the ball on every snap and is responsible for changing plays at the last minute, depending on the defense, will make more. But why an edge rusher who doesn’t even play on all the defensive snaps?

  11. Peterson wants out of Minnesota, just “swap” teams and contracts. Both players will be happy. So will the fans.

  12. Letting Murray become a free agent is almost proof positive Peterson will have a star on his helmet in 2015.

    Watch for the Vikings to make a run at Murray!

  13. It’s a shame that Chris Johnson’s misplaced 2010 deal blew the curve for truly great backs like Murray. And I say that as a Titans fan.

  14. That’s kind of crappy for RBs. I mean, they get the brunt of the hits, they run the hard yards, they pick up blitzes, but they don’t get paid.

    I realize everyone believes this is a passing NFL, and I agree, but what’s the first thing every team tries to do on the field?

    Establish the run.

  15. This will be interesting.

    He’s at the right age for RB’s and he’s coming off a league leading year.

    He’s also missed 2 preseason and 3 regular season games for ankle and hammy injuries in 2011, missed 6 for a foot injury in 2012, missed 2 games for a knee in 2013 and broke his hand this year. He also had seperate leg injuries that cost him time in college in 07 and 08.

    He’s a good RB and he’s earned what he’ll get paid but smart teams should tread lightly and not over pay for past production.

  16. Let the hype-machine begin…or should I say, continue? Murray is NOT a great running back. Sorry folks. He’s been healthy for a full 16 once in his career, and that just happened to be his contract year. Let’s also not forget that his O-line last season was arguably the best in the league. It took him nearly 400 carries to eclipse 1800yds. A guy with durability issues isn’t going to be able to keep that up. He’s a smart and productive runner (when he can stay on the field) but he is not a in the conversation with guys like Brown, Payton, Sanders, Tomlinson and Peterson.

  17. If he gets a big contract, chances are it will be from a team with a crap O-line. His production will then drop and it will be looked at as a bad contract.

    With the line Dallas had last year (both in terms of talent and staying healthy), a 70 year old with a bad hip could have run for 1000 yards.

  18. Yep. RB’s are a dime a dozen. Anybody could do it. There’s 100 RB’s that would have done it last year. Except, only 1 did. And why don’t you go ahead and check the Cowboys record when they relied just on Romo. You know, because a team only needs a QB. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Murray. The Cowboys are probably 8-8 (again) without him.

  19. cincyfredo says:
    Mar 3, 2015 8:30 AM
    RB’s a dime a dozen. There are 100 guys out there that can get you 1200 yards as long as you have a decent OL.
    ———
    Except, there really isn’t. And Murray gained 1,800 yards.

  20. The guy runs for 1800 yards and you guys are busting his balls. Tough crowd. Skoal.

  21. My guess is an average of $8M a year, with guaranteed money between $15m and $20M. Welcome to 2015.

  22. Dallas’ OL was outstanding this year. Will Murray be as productive behind an average line? Not a criticism, just wondering.

  23. Running backs need to do a lot more than run altough the focus is always yards gained & average yards per carry. Running backs first priority is a good if not great o-line. Second is when not running the ball he needs to know how to pick up the pass rush….or learn how to pick up the QB. Third is having good hands for outlet passes and NOT fumbling the ball EVER. For Murray durability is a question.

  24. The funny thing will all these people saying he needed that O line this year to be good you do realize that his yards per carry was actaully UNDER his career average right. Granted it was only by .1 but he averaged 5.5 yards a carry in 2011 and 5.2 in 2013. He just happened to run the ball nearly 400 times this past year because the only way the cowboys are successful is if they rely heavily on the RB and not Romo. Hence why a RB in this offense is so important and hence why it can’t be replaced by “anyone”.

    Second can people STOP talking about signing Peterson. He is under contract. YOU HAVE TO TRADE FOR HIM!

  25. A running back is like an expensive luxury car.

    The depreciation value drops faster than any other position so it makes more sense to lease and upgrade to a new model in three years than to purchase.

  26. Its unfair to compare Murray’s next contract with that of Peterson’s. First of all, Peterson signed with the Vikings, the Vikings aren’t exactly known as the good evaluator of talent and contracts, (ie, Berriman, Craig Jennings, Fred Smoot, Christain Ponder, and I could go on and on)

    If Peterson returns to the Vikings, he will remain by far and away the highest paid RB and the most Murray could hope for is to be the 2nd higher although Lynch will remain the game’s best.

    Now look at the teams behind those players, Seahawks, two Superbowls in the last 2 years, the Cowboys streaking to 12-4 and your out of the playoff Vikings.

  27. Carl Gerbschmidt says:
    Mar 3, 2015 8:20 AM
    It will be interesting to see who is in more demand, DeMarco or Adrian. You can expect essentially the same number of all purpose yards, but one is much younger and comes with less baggage.

    ———————————–

    Assuming all things are equal (i.e. insert both players on the same team), my money would be on AP all day to rack up more all purpose yards. Murray is a very good RB, but AP is a once in a generation type of back.

  28. you know beast mode is just hanging back to see what Murray gets before holding Seattle hostage for a comparable annual #

  29. I love Murray and want him to re-sign with the Cowboys. But, if he chooses to go elsewhere for more money, I wouldn’t blame him.

    Like I said, I love him, but I want him for the right price. I’d rather say goodbye to Murray than give him this blockbuster deal and then end up hamstringing future Cowboys teams with dead money.

    I also think Mark Ingram, from the Saints, is a decent option. Garrett used him a lot in the ProBowl, so I wonder if it was an audition of sorts to see what he could do behind the Cowboys O-line. He had 11 carries for 72 yards. Not bad.

  30. What all running backs need is for there to be a marquee player who is at the top of his game who is old … as in well over 30. The problem they have is that all of us believe that if you are a running back in the NFL, you are done at age 30. So, by the time guys are out of their rookie contracts, they are usually on the north half of their twenties and people are afraid to make a huge monetary commitment to them. Plus, all these late round picks who turned into gold probably don’t help them.

  31. He’s not better than McCoy, Lynch, Peterson, Charles, (deep breathe), Forte, Bell, , Spiller…and I wouldn’t pay him more than

  32. Funny how all of the playoff teams have a good running game yet the running game is considered an afterthought. I’d sign Murray.

    Really? Patriots did fine without a top tier RB. Why invest too much money into one position that has lost it’s value.

  33. Well you have two categories you have AP and then everyone else… You pay AP like a QB because he can take over a game just like any of the Top 6-12 QB’s in the NFL… Now with Murray the issue is are we going to find out was it the Oline or was he just that good… I believe it was was the perfect combo and the Cowboys should do all they can to get him if not… one word… Todd Gurley… do not let New England pick him up… Indeed…

  34. “Funny how all of the playoff teams have a good running game yet the running game is considered an afterthought. I’d sign Murray.”

    The running game isn’t considered an aftertought. Teams just think thay can have a good running game without a star RB. See: NE, Denver, Ravens…

  35. rollotomasi14 says:
    Mar 3, 2015 9:52 AM
    You don’t need a top RB to win the SB. It’s a passing league now. Paying a ridiculous amount of money to a RB is a waste.
    ————————————————–

    Just ask Pete Carroll. He sure didn’t need his RB, not to win one. Lol

  36. Just ask Pete Carroll. He sure didn’t need his RB, not to win one. Lol

    The only reason they were down that close in the first place was because of a great catch by a WR. Lynch was stuffed twice on third downs earlier in the game, no guarantee he makes it in.

  37. I don’t care what anyone says. The running back was the main weapon in the play-offs and the Super Bowl. Looking over the running back and opting for a pass lost the Super Bowl last year. If you are a stud who can get your team the play of Murray and Lynch, you are going to make lots of money.

    Green Bay might figure that out when Lacy is next signed. Right now he’s getting paid peanuts.

  38. MURRAY is without a doubt the most underrated RB in the NFL. The guy does it all. RUN, BLOCK, CATCH, LEADER. He’s the perfect RB in my eyes…only other player right now that has similar value to an offense is LYNCH

  39. RB’s are a dime a dozen? Really guys?

    How many Marshawn Lynches are there? If there were 32 teams with a RB who played like Lynch I’d agree with you.

    How’s that first round pick they traded for doing in Indy? How about that elite running game that fell off the map in San Francisco? Does anybody see 32 Leveon Bells?

    There’s a difference between serviceable talent and elite talent, and you’re all kidding yourself if you think RB’s are so replaceable

  40. AP with that defense and Bridgewater is scary honestly dont see him going to Dallas Vikings will be fighting for the division title with AP without Him it be a wildcard book it!!

  41. It’s hard to believe you can just plug-in-and-play any old running back after seeing Pittsburgh without Bell in the playoffs.

  42. onlinetoughguy says:
    Mar 3, 2015 9:42 AM

    Carl Gerbschmidt says:
    Mar 3, 2015 8:20 AM
    It will be interesting to see who is in more demand, DeMarco or Adrian. You can expect essentially the same number of all purpose yards, but one is much younger and comes with less baggage.

    ———————————–

    Assuming all things are equal (i.e. insert both players on the same team), my money would be on AP all day to rack up more all purpose yards. Murray is a very good RB, but AP is a once in a generation type of back.

    ——–

    As much as it really to agree with Carl, DeMarco and Adrian are very comparable and DeMarco can play on 3rd down and also serve as the face of your team.

    DM (2014): 2, 261 total yards, 13 TDs
    AD (2012): 2,314 total yards, 13 TDs

    I’d take DeMarco any day and twice on Sundays.

  43. Sorry but I can’t help but think that this is all set up for him to return to the “Cowboys”. I think they are letting him see what the market is for his talents and then resign him at that price.

  44. Some team will pay him a boatload of money.

    I see Detroit trying to land him. If they are going to let Suh walk, they might be able to fit Murray into their cap. It is all about the cap n the NFL.

  45. cincyfredo says:
    Mar 3, 2015 8:30 AM
    RB’s a dime a dozen. There are 100 guys out there that can get you 1200 yards as long as you have a decent OL. This guy ran the ball like 800 times
    ———
    Bull, bull, bull. 1200 yards rushing is a lot for a running back. Top ten NFL backs last year:
    Demarco Murray 1845 yds 4.7 ypc
    Leven Bell 1361 4.7 ypc
    LeSean McCoy 1319 4.2 ypc
    Marshawn Lynch 1306 4.7 ypc
    Justin Forset 1266 5.4 ypc
    Arian Foster 1246 4.8 ypc
    Eddie Lacy 1139 4.6 ypc
    Jeremy Hill 1124 5.1 ypc
    Frank Gore 1106 4.3 ypc
    Lamar Miller 1099 5.1 ypc

    Forsett and maybe Miller are the only outliers here. The rest are solid rocks to superstar backs. Just the numbers alone tell you star backs don’t grow on trees.

    There are 32 teams yet only 13 of them had 1000 yard back. Dallas would not have been as good or even playoff bound without Murray. Same with the Steelers and Bell. Foster was the best player on Houston’s offense. Lynch was the heart of the Hawks. Shady MCCOY’s down year is most back’s career year. Lacy finally provides Green bay with a reliable runner after years of futility at that position. Great NFL backs are harder to find than you all are making it out to be.

    No one easily replaced Peterson during his suspension. Carolina didn’t have a great back, nor did Atlanta, Detroit, New Orleans, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, NYJ, etc…..

  46. “Please come to Boston for the Springtime
    I’m stayin’ here with some friends and they’ve got lots of room” Sincerely, Bill B. (One for the thumb if you come)

  47. I think people are forgetting that Murray had about 400 touches last year and history shows that running backs with that many touches ALWAYS fall off the following season, usually dramatically so. The Cowboys ran him into the ground because they knew they weren’t keeping him. Other teams know the mileage is going to hurt his production. I think the Cowboys are going to do everything they can to get Peterson, who has never had 400 touches and only had 21 last year.

  48. McCoy better hope Murray gets a big deal or he is going to have to accept less from the Birds.

  49. Error: Murray isn’t going to show the value of a “top” RB, because he isn’t one. He’s good, but not great.

    He is not explosive. He doesn’t have breakaway speed. He isn’t a huge tackle-breaker. And he’s injury prone.

    However, he’s a good one-cut runner, and has strong lean to grab an extra yard or three on tight runs. He blocks and catches well, and he’s an excellent citizen.

    So, that is what he is, and that is how wise teams would look to pay him. But this is a team game, and a large amount of his production last year had nothing to do with him and everything to do with the team around him. The OL isn’t coming with him if he goes to another team.

  50. dcapettini says: Mar 3, 2015 8:53 AM

    It is odd how things change and develop in the NFL. The prevailing wisdom is that a good running game and a stout defense wins championships, but running backs are seen as fungible. Tackles make more money. Perhaps it has to do with the view that running backs are fragile and that their careers are often short. We remember Barry Sanders and not Walter Payton. Of course a QB who handles the ball on every snap and is responsible for changing plays at the last minute, depending on the defense, will make more. But why an edge rusher who doesn’t even play on all the defensive snaps?
    ________________________________
    In what world do we NOT remember Walter Payton? I’m not even a Bears fan, and I know he was one of the greatest RBs of all time.

  51. Murray has to do what’s best for him and his family? Is that a short term money grab or feeling the market then going back to Dallas and finishing his career? Too many variables, take big guarantees with a crappy team and risk being out of the league at 30 or take less with a good O-line and try to extend your career and look at long term marketing deals after life in the NFL. Maybe with his injury history he wants to get what he can now and be done with the NFL. Would you blame him? Everyone has to remember this is a business decision at the end of the day.

  52. freeigwebuike says:
    Mar 3, 2015 11:13 AM

    As much as it really to agree with Carl, DeMarco and Adrian are very comparable and DeMarco can play on 3rd down and also serve as the face of your team.

    DM (2014): 2, 261 total yards, 13 TDs
    AD (2012): 2,314 total yards, 13 TDs

    I’d take DeMarco any day and twice on Sundays.

    —————–

    So you think the 2012 Vikings OL was just as good as the 2014 Dallas OL? It wasn’t…. AP is the better back. It’s not close. If you want to bring in the off the field issues, that’s a different story.

  53. In Teddy We Trust says:
    Mar 3, 2015 11:39 AM

    I think people are forgetting that Murray had about 400 touches last year and history shows that running backs with that many touches ALWAYS fall off the following season, usually dramatically so. The Cowboys ran him into the ground because they knew they weren’t keeping him. Other teams know the mileage is going to hurt his production. I think the Cowboys are going to do everything they can to get Peterson, who has never had 400 touches and only had 21 last year.

    ———–

    You seem to not be aware that, according to local Minnesota reporters, the Vikings are desperate to dump AD, so I don’t think “Cowboys are going to do everything they can” is going to take much more than offering a mid-round pick…

  54. remember you don’t pay someone for their past you pay for their future. trends show rbs coming off a season with as many carry’s demarco murray had almost always have a noticeable drop off. rbs also have a shorter shelf life usually and you have alot of risk with a multiple year contract. with murray, you also have to consider his offensive line in dallas and how much that helped. he is a great back and useful, but it would be stupid to offer crazy money to him imo.

  55. ldbeachtecorion61 says:

    Peterson wants out of Minnesota, just “swap” teams and contracts. Both players will be happy. So will the fans.

    —-

    LOL, yea… Cowboy fans.

  56. …..so this is what it has come down to for an NFL rb ? it was bad enough seeing my position (fullback) be erased from the NFL but now even quality runningbacks have no chance to make real money. changing the rules so that even “harsh words” directed at a qb can gain you a 15 yard penalty and subsequently allowing for wr’s to gain an advantage against the defense. collectively, these rules have swung the pendulum so that qb’s and wr’s are the commodity and rb’s expendable. i’m not sure this was intended to be the way the game was played but so be it. murray should stay put if allowed to but he would have to take a serious paycut……….

  57. No one easily replaced Peterson during his suspension. Carolina didn’t have a great back, nor did Atlanta, Detroit, New Orleans, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, NYJ, etc…..

    Neither did the Pats.

  58. Hey tough guy,

    Not saying DM is as good a RB as AD, just saying that when you combine DM’s running ability AND pass catching ability and compare to AD’s running ability and (lack of) pass catching ability, you can get just about the same, not exactly the same, but just about the same production. WITHOUT having to explain to corporate sponsors why you just a signed a child abuser. That’s all. I bet that 31 out of 32 teams agree with me, for AD’s sake, the cowboys better be the one who doesn’t.

    It will be fun to watch Jerry spar with Rick Spielman. I sure do hope that Rick comes out on top, but I guess we’ll all see soon enough.

  59. For everyone who thinks he’s had too many carries and he’s beat up because of last year, consider his carries over his first 3 NFL seasons:

    163, 161, 217

    Yes, he had 393 carries last year, but he still has less than 1,000 career carries and just turned 27 two weeks ago.

    There’s plenty of tread left on those tires…

  60. You seem to not be aware that, according to local Minnesota reporters, the Vikings are desperate to dump AD, so I don’t think “Cowboys are going to do everything they can” is going to take much more than offering a mid-round pick…
    _______

    Same guy said there were multiple suitors, so I’m expecting a first round pick at minimum.

  61. I think he’ll find out that it’s a chicken & egg thing with RBs and good offensive lines. Teams without good OLs have trouble running, so if he goes to a poor team for a lot of money, his production will tank and thus his value will drop quickly. Conversely, teams with great OLs don’t need to overspend on a RB, because they can do well with rotating a couple of solid non-stars.

    Cowboys are the best place for him. He can put up great stats behind a stellar line (and with a stellar passing game opening things up), get paid well, and not lose his value as steeply as he inevitably will if he leaves. If anyone is in a position to have an Emmitt/Dorsett career, it’s Murray right now with Dallas.

  62. Same guy said there were multiple suitors, so I’m expecting a first round pick at minimum.

    —–

    Same guy also said:

    With a rich draft class at running back, a growing list of running backs hitting free agency and the generally agreed-upon devaluing of the NFL’s running game, it may be difficult to trade Adrian Peterson. Add to that the growing legal uncertainty of Peterson’s playing status, and the Vikings may have to settle for far less than they did last year [when the best offer they received at the combine for AD was a 2nd round pick]

    – Listen, we’re on the same side here and I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see the Vikes getting much more than a 3rd, maybe pick for AD.

  63. Murray better go to a team with a decent offensive line. Murray isn’t the type of runningback to break a lot of tackles or is shifty to make guys miss.

  64. The only way Peterson gets those big runs and all the yardage is getting the step around the edge.
    In 2013 he wasn’t getting it..now 2 yrs later we will see.
    If teams stop that he has very average numbers.

  65. rollotomasi14 says: Mar 3, 2015 9:55 AM

    Funny how all of the playoff teams have a good running game yet the running game is considered an afterthought. I’d sign Murray.

    Really? Patriots did fine without a top tier RB. Why invest too much money into one position that has lost it’s value.
    __________________________

    Yeah, except not every team has Belichek coaching and Tom Brady as their QB.

    And their RB’s can ALL catch out of the backfield. They use them extensively. Although it’s not one guy – they are coached to do what they do very well and Tom Brady is back there. And he’s not bad either.

    Look at ALL the successful teams – they have a solid run game and use the play-action pass extensively.

  66. How many RBs have been top 10 in rushing yards in each of the past three years?

    The answer is 2. (Gore and Lynch)

    That’s why you don’t pay RBs a lot of money. They typically can’t keep it up. If you pay one based on his past performance then he ends up missing a bunch of game and your team is dead.

    Murray ran the ball almost 440 times last season. I believe that is the 2nd most rushing attempts in NFL history (including playoffs). If it isn’t it’s close.

    Guys who run the ball that many times in a season don’t have a long shelf life, unless they are huge or HOF types. Murray isn’t huge and I doubt he’s HOF material.

    Larry Johnson at the same age had similar carries in 2006 and never gained 1k yds again.

    Jamal Anderson at age 25 did it and over the next three seasons (his last three) played in 21 of a possible 48 games.

    James Wilder did it in 1984 at the same age and had one 1K season after that.

    Erick Dickerson is an aberration. He had 4 more 1k seasons after his 400+ carry year at 26.

    Eddie George did it at age 26 and had 3 more good years.

    Terrell Davis did it at age 25 and was finished.

    Ricky Williams had 2 good seasons after his 392 carry season.

    Barry Foster was finished after his big year.

    Those are the top 9 players with most regular season carries.

    I wouldn’t pay him big money.

  67. dcapettini says: Mar 3, 2015 8:53 AM

    Perhaps it has to do with the view that running backs are fragile and that their careers are often short.
    ————————————————————
    It’s a function of the longevity of guys in this position, and the duration of rookie deals. You can basically draft a guy in the 3rd – 7th round, pay him squat, run him into the ground and then when his contract is up you draft a new guy with fresh legs.

    Paying Murray 5 mil a year makes no sense when you can get 70% of his production for 10% of his price.

  68. Look at ALL the successful teams – they have a solid run game and use the play-action pass extensively.

    The last 5 SB winners, only 1 team had a rushing offense in the top 10

  69. 380 carries plus in a year and it weighs heavy. Randle looked great backing up Murray last year and that’s testament to that monster O Line in Dallas. Modern NFL is about passing and stopping the pass. He’ll not make big money, go back to big D and make a career there DeMarco.

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