LA Chargers RB Austin Ekeler has been a vocal advocate for the fair payment of NFL running backs, especially over the last season. Saturday night, he took it a step further, having organized a Zoom meeting for the league’s top RBs to discuss the suppressed market, ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio reports.
The topic has been at the forefront of discussion since the deadline for franchise-tagged players to reach a long-term deal with their respective franchises came and went without yielding any contracts. This means that each of the three running backs to receive the franchise tag this year, including Saquon Barkley (Giants), Josh Jacobs (Raiders), and Tony Pollard (Cowboys), will need to play on the one-year deal, worth just over $10 million.
Steelers RB Najee Harris was reportedly in attendance on the call. Though Harris is only on the third year of his 4-year, $13,047,447 million rookie contract, the Steelers will need to decide whether or not to exercise his fifth-year option by the league deadline in May of 2024. Undoubtedly, the 2023 season will be a monumental one for the Steelers former first-round pick, as he looks toward earning a second contract with the team.
The consensus has generally been that Harris has disappointed in comparison to his draft capital, though he’s totaled 2,930 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns across his two seasons. He’ll have a big opportunity to earn a second contract with the team in 2023, working behind an improved offensive line, particularly with the additions of rookie OT Broderick Jones and veteran OG Isaac Seumalo. Harris has yet to average more than 4.0 yards per attempt in either of his two seasons.