When Todd Gurley signed a four-year deal final month value $60 million – together with $45 million assured – some NFL specialists believed the big-money dry spell for operating backs was about to finish.

A distinguished former NFL agent wrote concerning the new precedent Gurley’s deal would set. The Ringer’s Robert Mays used Gurley’s extension to romanticize the potential resurgence of the franchise again. And Gurley himself toutdated ESPN The Journal’s Sam Alipour: “It was not solely large for me, nevertheless it was a press release for the operating backs, for what we do and what we need to get on this league, as a lot as we put in.”

But a wholesome skepticism stays about whether or not Gurley’s extension with the Los Angeles Rams will result in different large contracts for operating backs. And contemplating historical past, that skepticism is well-founded; NFL groups largely hold their operating backs overworked and underpaid, and that is unlikely to alter, even with a handful of elite rushers on the verge of latest offers.

Joel Corry, a former NFL agent, notes that Gurley’s deal is a major outlier in comparison with the latest offers different elite free brokers acquired.

“The very best-paid man on a long-term deal (earlier than Gurley) was (Atlanta Falcons operating again) Devonta Freeman,” mentioned Corry, who writes about contracts and the wage cap for CBS Sports activities. “It is cash that wasn’t even what Steven Jackson obtained a decade in the past. One thing is critically unsuitable. I do not assume that is going to translate to each operating again.”

Jackson signed an extension with the Rams in 2008 that paid him $21 million in assured cash. There have been only a handful of offers since wherein operating backs have seen extra assured {dollars} – amongst them, Titans celebrity Chris Johnson‘s extension in 2011 ($30 million assured) and Vikings star Adrian Peterson‘s deal in 2012 ($36 million assured).

Gurley, who led the NFL with 2,093 offensive yards and 19 touchdowns in 2017, is among the fortunate ones – a flexible operating again in his prime with little put on on the treads enjoying for a franchise that considers him certainly one of its most useful property. However for probably the most half, NFL groups are strategically avoiding long-term funding in major ball carriers, particularly with a brand new wave of younger franchise backs being ushered into the sport. Rookies have led the NFL in dashing in every of the previous two seasons.

Operating backs are essential to a crew’s success, however they’re additionally among the many most risky, injury-prone gamers on offense. The typical profession of an NFL operating again is about three years, based on the NFLPA (although the union counts all operating backs on league rosters even earlier than the start of the season). The NFL has mentioned the common profession for operating backs who seem on the preliminary 53-man roster is about six years.

With attrition ranges excessive and rookie salaries low compared to profitable extensions, it is easy to see why NFL groups are loath to spend at operating again – even for one of the best of one of the best. And that bodes poorly for Le’Veon Bell. The All-Professional rusher is enjoying on the franchise tag for the second straight yr after he rejected a reported below-market deal from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bell is a free agent after the season.

The three-time Professional Bowler led the NFL final yr with 406 touches in 15 video games – a median of 27 touches per sport, one yr after averaging 28. However he faces a dilemma: rack up that many touches once more and he’ll run the chance of damage or burnout; settle for a lighter load and his counting stats might endure – alongside together with his possibilities of touchdown a giant contract.

“One, he has to remain wholesome and two, he cannot have regression” to beat Gurley’s deal, mentioned Corry. “If he has regression … groups will say, ‘Hey, nicely, his greatest years are behind him.'”

Bell, who hasn’t but signed his tender and hasn’t practiced with the Steelers since camp opened, reportedly rejected a suggestion that solely promised $10 million in assured cash. He’ll make $14.544 million below the tag.

How determined have issues turn into for a participant that is posted 8,000 whole yards and 42 touchdowns via his first 5 NFL seasons? In keeping with Corry, Bell is likely to be higher off spending the primary a part of the season on the sidelines.

“One thing which is likely to be greatest for him, and this will sound loopy … a soft-tissue damage early within the season which retains him out for a number of weeks,” Corry mentioned. “He comes again the final quarter of the yr, will get an enormous workload after which the playoffs, and he does not have the heavy utilization. That is likely to be his best-case state of affairs, personally – not for the Steelers, however for him.”

However not everybody is sort of so pessimistic concerning the place of operating backs on the NFL’s pay scale.

“That is some huge cash assured for Todd Gurley,” former NFL operating again and present NFL Community analyst Maurice Jones-Drew informed theScore. “From there, that is what groups will begin to have a look at. To me, in the event you’re an distinctive again and also you’re an distinctive participant you’ll want to receives a commission an distinctive price, interval.”

Jones-Drew believes gamers additionally get short-changed by way of public notion, suggesting that the blame for any contract dispute will get positioned on them versus possession or administration.

“Gamers get a nasty rap, and it is from followers,” mentioned Jones-Drew, who made three Professional Bowls in eight years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. “You by no means get mad at possession for not getting a deal carried out. However then we wish Le’Veon to come back on a one-year deal and run in every single place and do all these things.

“No, that is not how life works. On the finish of the day, the crew has simply the identical challenge because the participant – they should discover a method to get the deal carried out.”

Bell is not the one elite operating again whose crew faces a tough choice.

Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott, the fourth general decide of the 2016 draft, has averaged an NFL-best 104.6 dashing yards per sport and almost 25 touches per sport since he entered the league. He is eligible for an extension after this season. May the Cowboys take the identical strategy with him because the Steelers are utilizing with Bell?

Simply 4 years earlier, the Cowboys let DeMarco Murray stroll in free company after Murray made the Professional Bowl twice in 4 seasons. Murray led the NFL in touches, dashing yards, yards from scrimmage, and dashing TDs in 2014, an All-Professional season, however rejected Dallas’ reported provide of $6 million yearly to signal with the Philadelphia Eagles for $Eight million a yr, with $18 million assured.

Arizona Cardinals operating again David Johnson, an All-Professional in 2016, is coming into his fourth season and can be eligible for an extension. He led the NFL in 2016 with 373 touches, 2,118 yards from scrimmage, and 20 offensive touchdowns.

Whereas it is attainable that all or any three of those operating backs wind up with $25 million or extra assured, it is from sure.

“I believe that the sensible groups which have distinctive offenses are going to chew up and spit out sure (operating backs),” mentioned South Florida-based agent David Canter, who does not characterize any participant among the many 20 highest-paid operating backs.

Corry mentioned NFL groups can be clever to get as a lot work as attainable out of their major ball carriers after which allow them to stroll when their franchise-tag rights run out, which is what the Steelers seem poised to do with Bell.

“Personally, that is what I’d do,” Corry mentioned. “I do know that sounds type of harsh or overly cynical, (however) I would not pay certainly one of these guys.”

Geoff Mosher is an award-winning sports activities reporter, radio host, and TV persona with greater than 20 years of expertise overlaying all main sports activities and leagues. He additionally hosts recurrently on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia and co-hosts “The Sports activities Store” on Fb. You’ll find him on Twitter @GeoffMosherNFL.

(Pictures courtesy: Getty Pictures)



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