An Underage Sports Journal For Students of the Game

Connor Lang

Connor Lang

Running Backs Positional Value

Running Backs Should NOT be Paid High Salaries, Here’s Why:

Historically, the running back position is one of the most electric and entertaining positions to watch in all of sports. Their positional value lacks over any other position of the football field, however. Replaceability is at an all time high, yet we still see teams quickly handing out ridiculous deals to undeserving running backs. While there is a skill gap between these backs, is it enough to make them worth what someone like Christian McCaffrey is making? Simple answer is no.

Historically we’ve seen the running backs value take a slow decrease, and career longevity for running backs is at an all time low. (Just 2.57 years average) Over the last 10 seasons the winner of the Super Bowl never paid their running back the kind of money we see teams handing to backs now. Since 2015, no running back on the Super Bowl winner has made more than 1.2% of the teams cap. Over this 10 year span, the average running back takes up just 1.8% of the teams cap. From 2022 to 2025, Christian McCaffrey is set to take up about 7% of the Panthers cap space. This provides less capability to pay other players who are more crucial to the success of an NFL team.


Success of today’s running backs can be attributed almost entirely to the team’s offensive line. Any running back is replaceable, and there’s a reason we see emergence of new backs every year. This last year we saw an undrafted rookie, James Robinson absolutely thrive. Replacing Leonard Fournette and avoiding having to potentially pay Fournette. No running back is more valuable than the offensive line they run behind. Case closed.

These are the last 10 super bowl winners, all clearly paying relatively low amounts of money to their starting running backs:

2011: Green Bay Packers

Starting Running Back: Ryan Grant

Salary $4,500,000

3.7% of cap


2012: New York Giants 

Starting Running Back: Ahmad Bradshaw

Salary $4,500,000

3.7% of cap


2013: Baltimore Ravens

Starting Running Back: Ray Rice

Salary $5,750,000

4.7% of cap


2014: Seattle Seahawks

Starting Running Back: Marshawn Lynch

Salary $8,000,000

5.9% of cap


2015: New England Patriots

Starting Running Back: Legarrette Blount

Salary $955,000

0.7% of cap


2016: Denver Broncos

Starting Running Back: C.J. Anderson

Salary $589,000 

0.4% of cap


2017: New England Patriots

Starting Running Back: Legarrette Blount 

Salary $955,000 

0.7% of cap


2018: Philadelphia Eagles

Starting Running Back: Legarrette Blount

Salary $1,250,000

0.7% of cap


2019: New England Patriots

Starting Running Back: Sony Michel

Salary $1,750,000

1% of cap


2020: Kansas City Chiefs

Starting Running Back: Damien Williams

Salary $1,733,000

0.9% of cap


2021: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Starting Running Back: Leonard Fournette

Salary $2,500,000

1.2% of cap


(All contract information is from


    1. Even with those two, their careers are not guaranteed. Running backs do not have the longevity of other positions, so a long term, high paying deal just doesn’t make any sense.