Running Backs Remain Undervalued in the NFL

Melvin Gordon III has been a free agent for the past three months, yet there seems to be no news of him finding a new team as training camps are about to begin in July. In a recent interview on The Jim Rome Show, Gordon spoke of the dissatisfaction felt by running backs during a time when they are not being valued by teams.

Running backs perhaps have the hardest time on the field, as they just don’t get much attention from their teams. There are currently several high-profile running backs who are still available in free agency including Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette.

Cook, who was initially a potential trade target during most of the offseason, was ultimately released by the Minnesota Vikings on June 9. One primary reason why it was difficult to find a trade partner was mainly due to his contract. Running-back contracts have been devalued, where the franchise-tag value for players in 2015 was $10.93 million, which has dropped to $10.09 million this year.

It’s not just any other position that has seen a decrease in value, but kickers and punters remain the only ones with a lower franchise-tag value of $5.4 million. Expectedly, teams are less willing to invest significant amounts of money in running backs and are now looking for other alternatives.


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For instance, good coaches and solid offensive lines can still manufacture a strong rushing attack without the need for an elite player carrying the ball. Saquon Barkley finished fourth in the NFL for rushing yards last season, but the New York Giants have not been in a rush to work out a long-term contract despite giving him the franchise tag in March.

Miles Sanders followed Barkley on the NFL’s rushing yards list in 2022, and yet the Philadelphia Eagles were not willing to fight for him when he left the team. Instead, Philadelphia traded for D’Andre Swift and signed Rashaad Penny. The entire running-back room for the Eagles consists of six players, making a combined total of $7.9 million against the cap this year.

To add insult to injury, Los Angeles Chargers running back, Austin Ekeler, has had more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage for the last two seasons. He also accumulated 38 total touchdowns. Despite this, he was still unhappy with his contract and asked to be traded early in the offseason. The Chargers decided to revise his contract by adding $1.75 million in incentives, but still short from the long-term deal he desired. He is currently set to become a free agent after the 2023 season.

Gordon had been the Broncos’ primary starting running back for three seasons before being dropped midway through the 2022 season after losing a crucial fumble at the goal line in a Week 11 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. The Kansas City Chiefs then took Gordon into their practice squad for the remainder of the season, but he didn’t play for the team. As of now, Gordon remains unsigned and will likely continue to struggle for a new team.

It’s evident that running backs have had a challenging time in today’s NFL. Not only are they undervalued, but it’s clear they’re also left with few options for their future. The running-back position continues to decline. While the NFL has seen many talented and successful running backs in the past, teams are now focused on other positions. Many fans wonder how much longer running backs will be a key part of NFL teams.

This has led to a decrease in the amount of money spend on the running-back position with owners and teams less willing to risk big money on a position that has fewer guarantees and holds more significant injury concerns. It’s hard to blame teams for taking this approach, as the price of running backs only seems to be coming down. Honestly, as a male, I can say I understand this move. I crave safety and reliability, and for me, personally, players in the running back position offer neither.

It’s tough for a running back to be secure and feel valued when you have a roster filled with different types of players, including versatile options like D’Andre Swift and Saquon Barkley. The fact is, running backs are mostly replaceable. As a man who feels the push to succeed and the need to secure his finances, I understand why NFL teams are reluctant to take a gamble on a running back when there are other more worthwhile options to pursue.

Running backs need to stay focused and find comfort within themselves in order to take on harder challenges, especially when their careers are on the line. A good leader can make all the difference, as he can guide and motivate his team to succeed. Our role models, both on and off the field, should motivate us to be better every day. However, I would argue that the valuation of players shouldn’t be based solely on their position, instead, it should be based on their intrinsic value to any team they play for.

Running backs are a unique bunch. They have a passion that cannot be denied, and they will never stop striving to overcome the challenges that come their way. They should be rewarded for their contributions and hard work, regardless of how undervalued their position is. It is up for us, as the viewers and consumers, to show our appreciation for these players who put their all on the line every Sunday.

Despite this, it’s clear that running backs face a tough road in the NFL right now. The economics of the league are not in their favor. It’s up to the players themselves to persevere and recognize the uphill battle that they’re up against and stay optimistic even in the face of setbacks. Perhaps teams will start to recognize the vital role running backs play and adjust their approach to compensate accordingly.

Moreover, there is a lot that these players can do themselves to attract new teams. These players need to remain optimistic and work extra hard to show their value and what they can bring on and off the field. This includes demonstrating exceptional work ethics and avoiding off the field controversies. It’s not all about the dollars earned but also about the immense respect for the sport and the hard work that goes into it. There is no denying that the state of the running-back position in the NFL is challenging, but they still have a bright future.

In conclusion, while the future of running backs in the NFL remains uncertain, there is still hope that teams will recognize their importance and start investing in them more. For now, running backs must keep striving to showcase their value and demonstrate that they are more than capable of being key contributors to any team. For the male demographic, the intense passion and determination of running backs should be respected wholeheartedly. If any of us were in their situation, we would want our contributions to the sport to be valued just as we value our identities and livelihoods.

Let’s support running backs and other unsung heroes who are putting their all on the field every game. It takes great courage to push beyond one’s limits and strive to do better every day. Let’s celebrate the players who are not afraid to take risks and challenge themselves to be better every day.

To conclude, don’t write these players off yet! Running backs are and always have been a vital part of NFL teams. It’s just a matter of time before there is a shift and running backs are given the recognition and respect they deserve. Until then, let’s support and stand by these players who are just doing what they ought to do: giving it their all during the game and helping their teams win. Whether you’re a man or not, it’s no secret that as individuals, we respect and value hard work, just like these players.

In short, it’s time for running backs to shine once again, and it’s incumbent upon the league, fans, and the athletes themselves to make that happen! Football is more than just entertainment; it is also about respect, admiration, and appreciation for the brave and relentless players who compete hard on the field and inspire us to do the same in our lives.


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