Why Do NFL teams pay their Running Backs?

Over the last couple of years, running backs started to get paid more and more. A couple of them held out and others just straight up got paid. Once these running backs have gotten paid there production has significantly dropped off. Some blame this on injuries but even the guys who stay healthy don’t play up to the level they are getting paid to play at. It’s a fact that running backs have short careers because a lot of them lose the ability to play at a high level after a couple of seasons. Some running backs play at such an elite level during their rookie contract that their team feels they deserve a lot of money. This is where I get lost. There are very few running backs in the NFL that can win games for a team. For example, Derrick Henry proved he could do that in the playoffs. I think the system he is in makes him look better than he is but he showed he can at least get close to carrying a team. This let him earn the franchise tag. He will go from earning about $2 million a year to $10 million a year. This will make him the 4th highest-paid running back in the NFL. Last year he was the 37th highest-paid running back. The value he brought to the team was out of this world. Now though if he does not produce as at least a top 5 running back this is seen as a bad investment. It is smart that the Titans franchise tagged him since giving him a long term deal would have most likely been a disaster. No matter what happens this year they should move on or tag him again. To put this into perspective none of the top 5 highest-paid running backs in 2019 ranked in the top 5 in rushing yards or rushing touchdowns last season. No matter how you look at that all of these players are seen as bad investments. Rookie deals will always be a bargain if the player is somewhat decent. After that rookie deal, it becomes a massive gamble whether or not a player is worth the big contract they want. Overall almost no running back in recent memory has shown they are worth the deal they get when there performance is measured to a 3rd round pick making 1/10 the money and putting up similar numbers. The way NFL offenses are set up these days almost any decent running back will be able to put up decent numbers. A lot of teams are even switching to the running back by committee where a team switches between 2 or 3 guys throughout a game. Managing the salary cap is incredibly important and wasting your money on running backs has proven to not be a smart investment. I think over the next couple of years we will start to see a trend of very good running backs either not getting paid a ton after their rookie deal or they will straight up not even be signed with teams in favor of the younger guys. Rookie running backs each year are becoming more and more successful and with a talented running back class in the draft this year I think we will see some of the more well-known running backs slowly get ushered out the NFL much earlier in their careers than we thought they would.

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