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The first domino has finally fallen for running backs in the National Football League. For years, teams have been reluctant to increase the salary for feature backs. The Los Angeles Rams took the first step in giving Todd Gurley big-time money. The rest of the NFL should anticipate doing the same for their players.
Recently, the Rams gave a four-year contract extension to Todd Gurley, one of the best running backs in the league. According to Spotrac, the deal is worth $60 million with $45 million guaranteed. That contract makes him the richest player at his position. He received a $21 million signing bonus and will average $14.37 million per season.
Before Gurley inked the new deal, the market value didn’t crack double digits. The average annual salary for the position was $8.4 million. Even the most accomplished players were underpaid. LeSean McCoy, the modern Barry Sanders, had over 1,000 yards in four of the last five seasons. Nevertheless, McCoy is only averaging $8 million per year.
Gurley earned every single bit of his extension. In 2017, he had over 2,000 total scrimmage yards and 19 total touchdowns. He showed his explosion when he took the ball 57 yards to the house.
Gurley’s contract also makes an immediate impact on players like Le’Veon Bell. Over the last couple seasons, he has been demanding a long-term deal from the Pittsburgh Steelers. He took a lot of flak for wanting a record-breaking contract. Bell went to Twitter in response to Gurley’s deal.
Despite Bell’s response, that doesn’t mean he wants the same money as Gurley. According to NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala, Bell wants $17 million per season. “He wants to be paid like Antonio Brown.” Bell has yet to his $14.5 million tender.
According to NFL, Bell turned down $70 million deal over five years from the Steelers. The salary average would have been about the same as Gurley. However, the deal was no good because it lacked guaranteed money. Ian Rapport, the reporter for NFL Network, said that the Steelers only guaranteed $10 million.
Since Gurley received $45 million guaranteed, it makes the latest contract demands for running backs closer to market value. Bell wants more than Gurley but he has a better chance of getting what he wants next season.
Saquon Barkley is destined for a huge contract as well. His talent was too good for the New York Giants to let him fall past the second pick. Recently, Barkley signed a $31-dollar deal contract with a $20 million signing bonus. Teams need to take notice. Running backs with a tremendous ability like Barkley or even Ezekiel Elliot are going to be more expensive.
The days of signing backs for a dollar are coming to end. Teams will still draft a few backs low in the draft. However, when they become the best in the league, they better be ready to break the bank.