Running backs, salaries and supposed devaluation


Arizona Cardinals paying little to backs...because of youth.

A recent ESPN article by Josh Weinfuss, he discussed how punters and kickers are making more than running backs, showing yet again how the running back position has been devalued. He cites an Adam Schefter tweet with some of the recent contracts that have been signed this offseason.

The Cardinals pay their punter, Dave Zastudil, more than any of their running backs. Kicker Jay Feely makes more than all the backs except Ryan Williams.

I don't want to completely toss the idea of the devaluation of the running back, but, at least for the Cardinals, there is am easy explanation -- years in the league. Zastudil and Feely both are veterans of more than 10 years in the league. The minimum salary for someone with 10 years of league service is over $900,000. Kickers and punters, especially good ones, play for a long time.

On the other hand, running backs don't play for long. The Cardinals have two second-year players who were drafted in late rounds, a fourth-year player and a fifth-year player who has only started six games in four seasons. The highest paid back is Ryan Williams, who is in the final year of his rookie contract -- a second round rookie contract.

When it comes to paying running backs, the very best get good contracts. Even Rashard Mendenhall got $2.5 million last season.

Are running backs devalued? They just don't last as long in the league, and you are almost as likely to get production from a guy drafted late or undrafted as you do from a guy drafted in the first round. Kickers and punters don't make much money early in their career, either, unless they are elite. Then again, the elite running backs also get paid highly in free agency.

Clearly the running back position has evolved a lot. Teams pass more, which means backs have to be better blockers.

Is there reason to be concerned? No. If you're good, you'll get paid and if you can stay in the league long enough, you get paid, too. And as for kickers and punters? Only the good ones stick around. They are rarely drafted, so they start off on undrafted rookie contracts and if they don't perform, they are out of the league. Only the good ones survive. The same applies to running backs. The same can be said about every position.

The difference is that the career length of a running back is less.

Devaluation? Maybe. But it isn't too much different than any other position.

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