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Hey NFL, Put Some Respect on the RB Position Once Again!

As a mid-30s NFL fan, I feel like I’ve been spoiled, especially when thinking about the running backs I saw play growing up. As a kid, just beginning to find my love for football, Barry Sanders was the first player that caught my eye. There wasn’t anybody at his position better. And honestly, to this day it’s still hard to find someone who can do what Sanders did as well as the Detroit Lions star did.

Hey NFL, Put Some Respect on the RB Position Once Again!
Barry Sanders is carried off the field at the end of the game 21 December after his 184-yard rushing performance/AFP PHOTO/Matt CAMPBELL

— Fan Shop (@fanshop7) June 28, 2018

Moving forward, my first favorite player, and whose jersey I still rock now and again, was Curtis Martin, RB for the New York Jets. Martin’s prowess in NY’s offense was the stuff Jets NFL odds fans lived for back in the day. He wasn’t flashy, wasn’t over the top, but whenever you needed to get some yards and put a defense on notice, you could count on him.

Before, being a running back used to mean something. And if you ask any football fanatic, it still does. Apparently though, for the league it doesn’t mean much. After a day that rocked the foundations of pro football in one of the worst ways possible, let’s talk about this whole running back conundrum and how the league should do something to fix it before it’s too late.

When Did It All Go Wrong?

Monday, July 17, 2023, that’s when it all went wrong. After Monday’s deadline for franchised players to agree to long-term deals, as all the top NFL news sites showed, star backs like NY Giants Saquon Barkley, LV Raiders Josh Jacobs, and Dallas Cowboys Tony Pollard were left out of the long-term signing party.

Out of all franchise-tagged players, only those three,-star running backs for their teams, and three of the best in the league, were not able to reach a long-term contract deal with their respective franchises. Let that sink in for a second.

While Pollard had previously signed his tender with Dallas, Barkley, and Jacobs didn’t, thus pushing them to stay away from all team activities and offseason programs while waiting to score a much-deserved deal. With a simple “It is what it is” tweet right after the deadline was approached, Barkley cryptically expressed what tons of frustration must feel like.

Of course, it didn’t take long for the league’s RB brotherhood to stand up and start speaking some facts. On Twitter players like Tennessee Titans star back Derrick Henry, one of the last running backs in the league to sign a long-term contract worth $10 million or more a year alongside San Francisco’s Christian McCaffrey and Cleveland’s Nick Chubb, blasted a truth bomb aimed at those defending something indefensible.

At this point, just take the RB position out the game then. The ones that want to be great & work as hard as they can to give their all to an organization, just seems like it don’t even matter. I’m with every RB that’s fighting to get what they deserve.

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Najee Harris doubled down on what fellow backs were saying: ”I agree with my running back brothers around the NFL – history will show that you need running backs to win – we set the tone every game and run through walls for our team and lead in many ways – this notion that we deserve less is a joke.

I’m not one to say who is right and who is wrong. I’m just a football fan who happens to be a writer. But we know who is right and who is wrong here, and heads up, it’s not the players.

Teams Are Wrong Here, Not the Players.

I get that the game is under constant evolution, and the tides are moving toward a more passing-friendly game. But under no circumstance should a position as important to the fundamentals of the game go through so much peril.

For example, how is it that Barkley can end up making as much in his career if he doesn’t manage to score a big deal after 2023 as a player like Kyler Murray who has shown nothing when compared to NY’s star RB? Barkley can put up numbers that could make him an odds-on favorite for NFL MVP winner. How does one explain that a kicker, yes, a kicker can make more this season than most running backs?

Lastly, how does one explain that there are defensive players, who while good, are not bonafide stars on their teams making 10s of millions of dollars while the league’s top backs are playing significantly less? No disrespect to any other positional players but come on, teams need to learn to value all of their players similarly, not just some.

It’s mind-boggling, yes mind-boggling because I don’t feel like cursing out someone right now, that players like Zeke Elliott and Dalvin Cook, two of the strongest backs in recent years might be out of a job this season because of how teams are looking at the position.

Is it that hard to calculate the impact that players like these can bring to a team? In their prime Elliott or Cook are players that could become pivotal pieces in a title-winning offense. Just like the ones still with a job and getting underpaid, they deserve better.

Changes Must Happen ASAP!

From the looks of it, this seems like a situation that doesn’t have any immediate solution. The devaluation of the RB position has been happening for quite some time now, but not until now is the spotlight truly shining upon it.

For rushers entering the league out of college through the NFL draft, it seems as if the only reward from playing in football’s most physical and beaten position is to snag up a rookie deal, hopefully, make a mark in the team that picked them, get tagged, and then either get released or not get paid what he deserves.

Who knows where the narrative of this issue will go as time progresses, but my stance doesn’t change. I stand with the fact that you need RBs to win and I will die on this hill.

Here’s to hoping Barkley, Jacobs, Pollard, and the rest of the NFL’s running backs have a superb year and show those who think they don’t deserve big money that they do, and soon.

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