Running backs across the NFL are now forming a new bond in their attempt to address the suddenly changing and declining market at the position. And now, a secret meeting took place to address the situation involving RBs, per Mike Florio of NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk.
NFL Running Backs Meet to Discuss Deflated Market
Florio revealed that Los Angeles Chargers star RB Austin Ekeler was the ringleader of a Zoom meeting involving backfield representatives across the league. The purpose? For players like Ekeler to voice their concerns while also discussing future strategies to help improve the market.
The RB market took a major hit on Monday, July 17, as Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys, and Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders all failed to reach long-term agreements with their respective teams.
This brings a nebulous future for all three, which could lead to training camp holdouts, trade demands, or simply walking in free agency next year.
“Per multiple sources, the issue of holding in via the embellishment, exaggeration, or fabrications of injuries (suggested earlier this week in an interview by NFLPA president JC Tretter) was raised during Saturday night’s call,” according to Florio.
“As one source put it, the consensus was that this can’t work for running backs, since it feeds into the narrative that they’re prone to injury,” Florio wrote. He added that this move also gives players lower on the depth chart a chance to prove that, dollar for dollar, they represent a better value than the “injured” players they are replacing.
While a bulk of the focus was directed toward agents (who were excluded from the call, according to Florio), another concern that was raised revolved around “some agents creating false expectations for other running backs by dumping phony salaries into the back end of contracts.”
And that’s where New Orleans Saints Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara and one part of his current deal entered the picture.
“For example, Alvin Kamara has a final-year compensation package of $25 million, which pushed the average artificially to $15 million. There’s no way he’ll get $25 million in the last year of his current deal,” Florio pointed out.
What’s the Next Step?
While player agents, again, weren’t involved in the interactive call, Florio revealed that there’s a process that rings them and that the process was proposed by the participating RBs.
“The next step, we’re told, will be for the agents of this coalition of concerned running backs to get on a call of their own, in the hopes of coming up with better lines of communication and strategy for running backs who are or will be seeking new contracts,” Florio said. “The goal is to get the agents, who are inherently in competition, to collaborate.”
Florio adds: “There’s significant potential value to this approach. Teams cannot collude regarding negotiating strategies; players and agents can.”
However, Florio mentioned that one potential proposal could alter one other market — offensive linemen.
“One potential swap, for example, would be to alter the franchise-tag calculation for running backs and, in return, split the offensive line franchise tag into three categories — tackle, guard, center.
“That would benefit teams that shy away from tagging interior offensive linemen since tackle money determines the tag,” Florio wrote. “It also would make it much harder for interior offensive linemen to get to the open market since with lower tags, teams would be more likely to restrict them.”
The list of backs who took part in the Zoom included Barkley, Jacobs, and Pollard, along with past 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers versatile Pro Bowler Christian McCaffrey — the latter called the decisions involving the Giants, Cowboys, and Raiders “criminal.”