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    The Complete Timeline of the NFL Running Back Market’s Collapse

    The NFL running back market may have hit its nadir in 2023. But the devaluation of RBs -- and the collapse of their contracts -- didn't start this offseason.

    While much has been made of the regression in NFL running backs deals this year, it actually started well before that. The deals going back even five years ago were much stronger than they are today.

    How Has the Market for NFL Running Backs Depreciated Over Time?

    Former Rams RB Todd Gurley signed a huge deal over five years ago (July 25, 2018) for $60 million over four seasons ($15 million per year), and former Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott signed for the same average per season over six seasons.

    Even Adrian Peterson’s three-year contract extension signed eight years ago with the Minnesota Vikings — yes, eight — was better (three years, $42 million, $14 million per year) than most deals in recent years.

    Here’s a look at the best deals by year since that time that have been completed, which will give you a better idea of how much the running back money has, for the most part, been in regression in recent years.

    2018-2023 Notable Contract Extensions
    (Note: Excluding one-year franchise-tagged players, the listed date is the day the contract was executed by both sides.)

    • David Johnson/Arizona Cardinals (Sept. 8, 2018): Three years, $39 million ($13 million annually)
    • Ezekiel Elliott/Dallas Cowboys (Sept. 4, 2019): Six years, $90 million ($15 million annually)
    • Le’Veon Bell/New York Jets (March 13, 2019): Four years, $52.5 million ($13.125 million annually)
    • Christian McCaffrey/Carolina Panthers (April 16, 2020): Four years, $64.064 million ($16.016 million annually)
    • Derrick Henry/Tennessee Titans (July 15, 2020) Four years, $50 million ($12.5 million annually)
    • Joe Mixon/Cincinnati Bengals (Sept. 2, 2020): Four years, $48 million ($12 million annually)
    • Dalvin Cook/Minnesota Vikings (Sept. 12, 2020): Five years, $63 million ($12.6 million annually)
    • Alvin Kamara/New Orleans Saints (Sept. 12, 2020): Five years, $75 million ($15 million annually)
    • Nick Chubb/Cleveland Browns: (Aug. 2, 2021): Three years, $36.8 million ($12.266 million annually)
    • Aaron Jones/Green Bay Packers (March 27, 2021): Four years, $48 million ($12 million annually)

    Note: Bell was the only player who changed teams at the time of doing a new deal.

    Since McCaffrey signed his extension over three years ago, which is still the best running back contract in NFL history on a per-year average, the only back who has signed for $15 million or more per season since then was Kamara (nearly three years ago). He signed a five-year deal, which is one season longer than what McCaffrey agreed to.

    How bad was it for running backs who hit the market this year?

    Miles Sanders, who is coming off career season-highs in rushing yards (1,269) and rushing touchdowns (11) with the Philadelphia Eagles, signed a four-year, $25.4 million deal ($6.35 million per year) with the Carolina Panthers.

    That’s over $9.6 million per season less than McCaffrey signed for — three years ago. And McCaffrey had two years left on his rookie deal (including his fifth-year option) at the time he signed his extension.

    That’s not a knock on Sanders, who actually signed the best free agent deal at the position. Former Chicago Bears RB David Montgomery signed the second-best FA deal at three years and $18 million ($6 million per year).

    It’s just a reality of the RB market, which has been in a market decline for years and crashed over the past four to five months, with some veterans agreeing to pay reductions (see Joe Mixon and Aaron Jones) and others set to play on the franchise tag (Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard) or a renegotiated one-year deal (Saquon Barkley).

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