More than a decade ago, teams began to see the value in using multiple running backs — especially when it comes to the value of the contracts given to those running backs. By shifting away from the workhorse model, teams avoid being backed into a financial corner by a highly-productive player with whom the fans have fallen in love.
Case in point: Shaun Alexander. The Seahawks had no choice but to give the 2005 NFL MVP a then-record eight-year, $62 million with $15 million paid out in the first year. After the first year, the Seahawks regretted it. After the second year, Alexander was gone.
Even as some teams (like the Saints starting in 2006, with Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush) pivoted away from putting all running back eggs in one basket, others have had — and have had to pay — true workhorse tailbacks. More recently, teams that give out big contracts to running backs (Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson) end up regretting them, quickly.
But that’s the price that is paid for allowing a player to become a touchdown-scoring, fantasy-football-fueling, jersey-selling machine. The Saints are now faced with paying that price to a running back who isn’t a workhorse.
Last year, for example, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey had 403 touches. Kamara had 252.
So what happens if/when the Saints pay Kamara? Will they use him as a workhorse in an effort to justify the investment?
Before that question becomes relevant, the Saints and Kamara need to work out a long-term deal. There’s a belief that they’ll get there by Monday. If they don’t, things could get interesting. If they do, whether and to what extent Kamara will be used more like the Panthers use Christian McCaffrey will be even more interesting.