Today: May 29, 2024

Column: On the NFL

Luke Gadson – Sports Editor

One common theme of this offseason was teams not wanting to sign their premier running backs. In my opinion, running backs are the backbone of the offense being one of the most difficult positions, and are given grueling tasks just about every single play. Yet, we saw names like Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs get hit with franchise tags instead of signing the contracts that I personally feel they deserve. But why is it that these teams do not want to pay these top-tier players? 

The risk of injury connected with running backs is unquestionable, first and foremost. The tasks placed on running backs in football are extremely rigorous. Running backs are more likely to sustain injuries compared to many other positions because of their frequent hits and demanding workload. The trend of giving huge contracts to running backs only to have them miss most of the season due to injury has begun to make teams hesitant. It is a risky investment because these injuries can have a tremendous effect on a team’s performance and playoff chances. Many teams now rotate a number of running backs to distribute the strain and lessen reliance on a single-star back. In addition to minimizing the danger of injury, this tactic also allows teams to use their resources more effectively. Why spend a lot of money on one running back when you can achieve the same results as a group of cheaper players? My take on this is that star running backs are stars for a reason. They can do things that other backs cannot. Whether that is explosiveness, vision, power or patience, they carry skills that you do not find in the average running back. To me, that is worth the extra change. 

The NFL has also evolved into a passing league. Football used to be a game of handing the ball off down the middle and grinding out as many yards as possible. Personally, I feel like running backs play a key role in opening up the passing game. This is because, by ground-and-pound running the ball, defenders will be more likely to collapse on the run. Leaving holes in the defense and open opportunities for the passing game. 

The last thing put into question is whether a star running back is a key part of winning a Super Bowl. Especially with Miles Sanders and Isiah Pacheco being their teams’ leading rushers going into this past year’s Super Bowl while both being on cheap rookie contracts. Also, since 2009, the salary of the Super Bowl winner’s running back never surpassed $2.5 million. To put that into perspective, Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes made $30 million this past season. So, the mindset of these organizations has to be if all these teams won the Super Bowl without spending excess money on a premier back, why would we? But this leaves the running back position and its elite athletes in a terrible position. They will not be offered the money they deserve for the grueling tasks they are given and the notoriety they can provide a team. 

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