It has been a long year for elite running backs in the NFL. All throughout the offseason, they were fighting to secure long-term contracts, and were denied by their respective teams. Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders, and Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys were all franchise tagged by their respective teams. Barkley and Jacobs were able to negotiate a slight raise for a one-year deal, but they still didn’t get the long-term security.
Many people viewed these experiences as the league essentially making it clear how they value running backs. The running back position has been devalued in recent years, and this summer was like an exclamation point of sorts. The running backs knew that if things were going to change, they would have to get on the same page and make something happen.
That led to a Zoom meeting with a group of top running backs, as they tried to figure out a way to restore value to the position. It’s unclear what took place in the meeting, but everyone throughout the league knew that the ball would end up in Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor’s court. Taylor was a top running back and entering a contract year. He had the next best opportunity to improve the running back market.
Taylor understood the assignment, because he and his team of agents engaged in messy fight with the Colts, in search of a contract extension. Initially, Taylor and Indianapolis weren’t on the same page, but after an awkward few months that included feisty social media exchanges and a trade request, the Colts eventually gave Taylor an extension.
Prior to playing a snap in the 2023 season, Taylor signed a three-year deal worth $42 million, with $26.5 million guaranteed. The $14 million annually makes Taylor the third-highest paid running back in the NFL, and the contract is being considered a win for running backs.
Jonathan Taylor’s contract with Colts considered a win for running backs
Taylor, in a recent conversation with the media, expressed that he thinks his new deal is a win for running backs:
"I definitely think it is [a shift]. Anytime a running back can go out there and perform but also have some security, it just shows that running backs are essential."- Jonathan Taylor
The trend of running back contracts supports that belief. When the deal was first reported, NFL insider Adam Schefter detailed how Taylor’s contract is the first long-term running back contract worth $10 million or more per year since Nick Chubb signed his deal with the Cleveland Browns in 2021.
Whether this is the start of a new trend, or an anomaly, will reveal itself with the next group of running backs. With Barkley, Jacobs, Pollard, Derrick Henry, and Austin Ekeler all set to be free agents in 2024, everyone will see how the league values running backs.