It takes a lot to be a running back in the NFL. You need to be elusive, powerful, smart, and most importantly durable. It takes vision, patience, passion, and a high football I.Q. to succeed in the league. The ones who have excelled in the past were rewarded with prominent offensive roles, went on to win league awards, plus more along with a new contract. It seems as if things are starting to change.
Fast forward to the 21st century. Now, the running back position is considered expendable due to the fact that they get crushed seemingly every possession. We are seeing more and more “running back committees” which are stables of backs splitting the touches and sparing one another. Statistically running backs account for 16.3% of injuries in the NFL. So it is fair to understand the concern of front offices that are not willing to shell out millions of dollars for that position.
In 2018, we saw a contract standoff that will probably never be forgotten. Le’Veon Bell, at the time a Pittsburgh Steeler, played the 2017 season under the franchise tag. The next year the Steelers tried to place the franchise tag on him AGAIN and Bell was more reluctant this time around. He was slated to earn $14.5 million guaranteed under the tag but that wasn’t helping his long-term value. He wanted a long term contract with guaranteed money so if he sustained a career ending injury, it wouldn’t leave him out to dry.
“It’s costing me some fans,” Bell told ESPN in October. “A lot of people call me selfish, but I’m really not. I’m doing it for guys behind me or guys who don’t understand what’s going on in the business of football. The 22 years I’ve been playing football, I’ve always brought value. I don’t think the Steelers valued me as much.”
Le’Veon Bell sat out the entire 2018 season in hopes of getting a new deal, which never happened. Bell later went on to sign a 4 year $52.5 ($35 mill guaranteed) contract. It seems as Bell reset the running back market and set a standard that other will hope to follow, guaranteed money.
We are already seeing superstar level backs holding out in hopes of a new contract. Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon III are the latest to do so. Zeke has been arguably the best running back since he came into the league. He is the motor that keeps the Dallas Cowboys moving and the reason they have been so successful. Some could argue that he has been somewhat of a distraction. Multiple run ins with the law and the league but that shouldn’t stop the Cowboys for paying their workhorse.
Melvin Gordon’s hold out has been a surprise. Gordon doesn’t talk much and stays under the radar while his production has been massive. The past three seasons he has produced 850+ rushing yards and 8+ rushing touchdowns along with 400+ receiving yards and 2+ receiving touchdowns. Gordon is in the final year of his contract and wants a long term deal or a new team. The Chargers are not eager or willing to give in to Gordon’s demands which means he might not be on the team much longer.
Is the constant stand off between running backs and the front office here to stay? Are holdouts now going to be the norm? Discuss it in our forums and let us know what you think! Check out the rest of the website while you’re there. Follow us on twitter to stay in the loop. Follow me here.