The deadline for NFL teams and franchise-tagged players to agree to a long-term extension has officially come and gone. As of Monday, July 17 at 4 p.m. ET, running backs Saquon Barkley (Giants), Josh Jacobs (Raiders), and Tony Pollard (Cowboys) will officially have to play the 2023 NFL season under the franchise tag or elect to sit out the 2023 season Le’Veon Bell-style.
Unsurprisingly, considering — you know — he is a running back, the Steelers’ 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris had some thoughts.
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 trough walls for our team and lead in many ways- this notion that we deserve less is a joke. https://t.co/rWJkGIEgmW— Najee Harris (@ohthatsNajee22) July 17, 2023
Harris certainly doesn’t stand alone in his fight for the league’s running backs to see a fair payday, equal to what they contribute to the game on an every-down basis. Running backs throughout the league are tasked with taking big-time hits virtually every down, shortening the length of their careers (and limiting potential earnings). Yet still, their compensation doesn’t match up with what is asked of them.
It does seem that the NFL will have to answer some questions when it comes to how the league will value (and pay) the position moving forward. There’s a growing sense of frustration among the league’s running backs, with more players taking to social media and podcasts as an avenue to express those concerns.
This offseason, there have been a number of star running backs released in order to preserve cap space, including veterans Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook among others, while Joe Mixon (Bengals) and Aaron Jones (Packers) each took pay cuts in order to remain with their teams.
Unfortunately, the Steelers aren’t all that far out from having to make their own regarding Harris’ future with the team. They’ll have to decide after 2023 whether or not to exercise his fifth-year option, but even then, will need to eventually decide whether or not he’s worth the investment of a second contract with the team. Despite some disappointment from fans regarding Harris’ efficiency, he’s totaled 2,930 scrimmage yards (6th among RBs) and 20 total touchdowns (tied-9th) in his first two seasons.
Here’s a look at some other running back reactions from around the league.
This is the kind of trash that has artificially devalued one of the most important positions in the game. Everyone knows it’s tough to win without a top RB and yet they act like we are discardable widgets. I support any RB doing whatever it takes to get his bag. https://t.co/sRYfAKwrpQ— Austin Ekeler (@AustinEkeler) July 17, 2023
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 . https://t.co/OgvBWZCKvn— Derrick Henry (@KingHenry_2) July 17, 2023