Running backs have been devalued for some time in the NFL. Top RB paydays pail compared to quarterbacks and wide receivers around the league. NFL offenses once coveted backs who could carry the rock 20-plus times each game and were willing to pay them accordingly. Now all that’s out there for the league’s top RBs is signing a franchise tag. That’s the spot last year’s leading rusher, Josh Jacobs, finds himself in with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Per Paloma Villicana, FOX 5 news Las Vegas:
#Raiders RB Josh Jacobs tells me he’s “feeling great” this offseason with no injuries; he feels “explosive.”
I’m told by a source close to him that if a deal is not made between the Raiders and Josh Jacobs on Monday at 1PM. Jacobs will not be showing up for training camp.
If you live east of Las Vegas, you may have forgotten about Jacobs’ contract dispute with the Raiders because all you hear about in the national sports media is that Saquon Barkley and the New York Giants have yet to come to an agreement on a long-term deal to keep him with the team. Neither player has signed the franchise tag for their respective organizations and has until Monday afternoon to work something out.
Threatening to skip training camp is the route players take when trapped in a contract dispute with their employer entering an NFL season. The two sides can often come together and work out a deal to avoid the player missing regular season games. Emmitt Smith missed the first two games of the 1993 season, and the Cowboys started 0-2. Smith returned, and Dallas bounced back to win their second Super Bowl of the 90s. It’s not uncommon in the NFL, especially at the RB position. Eric Dickerson held out twice in his career with the Rams and Colts.
The most extreme holdout in recent memory happened a few years ago when Le’Veon Bell sat out the entire ‘18 campaign in Pittsburgh. Bell had rushed for over 1,200 yards in three of his five years as a Steeler. After returning from his hiatus, Bell never eclipsed 800 yards rushing in a season. He ran for 789 yards in ‘19 with the Jets, then bounced around playing with the Chiefs, Ravens, and Buccaneers over the next two years. Now Bell is out of the game.
Bell’s story seems more of a cautionary tale of what can happen when things go too far. While the Steelers stood their ground, Bell did get paid by the Jets. However, it wasn’t the huge payday he was expecting. All these guys should get their money while they can, but when it gets to the point of sitting out a whole year, it’s probably gone too far. Neither Jacobs nor Barkley are likely to get to that point, but it has to be something both they and their agents have in the back of their minds. Are you willing to give up a year of what’s already a short career on average? A quarterback doing it is one thing, but at the running back position, that could be career suicide.