Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard remain franchise tag runners with no long-term extensions after Monday’s deadline passed with no deals done.
But with their one-year offers set for $10.091 million in guaranteed salary by 2023, they’re by no means underpaid any time soon. Pollard has already signed his offer with the Cowboys, so there are no concerns about whether he will play for the team this season.
However, Barkley and Jacobs have not signed theirs and are considering skipping training camp. Pollard, a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft who earned less than $1 million during his breakout 2022 season, is enjoying a pay rise of more than 10 times his previous salary. In your case, it’s easier to play with a one-year tag.
Barkley, the Giants’ second overall pick in 2018, began his career on a fully guaranteed, $31.2 million, four-year contract before earning $7.2 million for his fifth NFL season. Jacobs, the Raiders’ 27th pick in the 2019 draft, earned just under $12 million in his first four seasons.
Barkley, Jacobs and Pollard’s $10.091 million for 2023 puts them in a three-way tie for seventh at running back in terms of average annual value. They’re also four points (and $3 million) shy of breaking into the top 10 in total money guaranteed.
Barkley, 26, is coming off his best season since his rookie season. He earned his second trip to the Pro Bowl with 1,650 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns to help the Giants reach the playoffs. The 25-year-old Jacobs won both the league rushing title (1,653 yards) and the scrimmage title (2,053).
Based on those accomplishments, you’d think not only that Barkley and Jacobs might demand more, but also that teams would value them more. But the law of supply and demand is not in favor of running backs: In either case, a great season doesn’t deserve a mega-contract for a long-haul veteran.
The three highest-paid running backs in terms of average annual salary are Christian McCaffrey ($16 million), Alvin Kamara ($15 million) and Derrick Henry ($12.5 million). When weighing their established career work, those three have potentially Hall of Fame-caliber résumés that the other running backs don’t. Nick Chubb, a worthy four-time Pro Bowl workhorse, is fourth at ($12.2 million), while Joe Mixon and Aaron Jones are tied for fifth at $12 million.
In terms of guaranteed practical money, there’s no way Barkley or Jacobs would fall somewhere between No. 1 McCaffrey ($38.16 million) and No. 5 Chubb ($20 million). The next-highest guaranteed money veteran is Austin Ekeler ($15 million).
The Giants have a leadership learning from the Bills and Chiefs, while the Raiders are operating through the Patriots under Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler. They don’t have the appearance of wanting to invest too much in a position with a surplus of versatile talent, even after making huge profits on their backs.
For a deep position with an ever-growing elite talent pool, now including first-round rookies Bijan Robinson (Falcons) and Jahmyr Gibbs (Lions), there’s no clout for veteran running backs who aren’t near the top. . Not when the average salary for the position is $2.57 million, per Statista.
Barkley also has had his share of durability issues that would make the Giants hesitant to commit more years — and more money — to him. Jacobs has also lost time in his first four years, although he played a full roster in 2022.
Those are other factors beyond how those franchises are wary of recurring investments.
The Cowboys, Giants and Raiders all took advantage of the franchise tag, with a fair value that was below the top market. The tag is supposed to buy time for teams to come to long-term deals, and in the case of running backs, it’s not far from better average salary and guaranteed money contracts.
Barkley and Jacobs got reasonable raises for their recent peaks in contract years. Pollard, by comparison, was rewarded more for massively outdoing him, to the point where he made the once well-compensated Ezekiel Elliott expendable.
With Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette and others notable name running backs all remaining free agentsthere is more working against Barkley and Jacobs than for them. The Giants also drafted Eric Gray this year, while the Raiders are sitting on last year’s Zamir White. Both teams also had key race success due to lockout improvement in 2022 – both can be confident that they will find an acceptable production replacement.
The running back is a prominent position in the NFL, thanks to the personalities behind the prolific performances. The fantasy football explosion continues to play a big part in that.
The downside, however, is that position is more about prestige and popularity than being paid like the best players in the league at lesser positions. Finding out the place of Barkley, Jacobs, Pollard, the economics of everything says that they are right where they should be.