Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs will play on the franchise tag this NFL season. Or they won’t.
Those are the only two options.
After Monday’s deadline, they were ineligible to sign a long-term deal this offseason following months of failed negotiations. How they behave is now up to them. Training camp will be an option for both players early in the season or beyond. Le’Veon Bell was an option maxed out in 2018 in a similar situation that marked the end of his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Neither has signed their franchise agreement.
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard, meanwhile, has decided to sign his franchise tender and is expected to play this season without an extension.
For NFL running backs, the lack of extensions for two of the best at the position further signals a stark reality in a league that continues to devalue and refuse to make long-term investments at the position. Few of the league’s best backs heeded the news.
They also noted ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller, who tweeted about the running back’s disposability amid Monday’s news. They sounded.
Tennessee Titans running back and two-time NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry said:
“At this point, take the RB position out of the game,” Henry wrote on Twitter. “People who want to be the best & work as hard as they can for an organization that doesn’t seem to matter. I’m with every RB fighting to get what they deserve.”
Fortunately for Henry, he didn’t face the same situations as Jacobs and Barkley. He is approaching the final year of a four-year, $50 million extension to his rookie contract. $2 million salary Last season. He got a big salary. But he will soon fight for another.
Three-time Pro Bowl and two-time All-Pro San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey has secured his payday as he approaches the second year of a four-year, $64 million contract. Like Henry, who called the lack of long-term contracts by Monday’s deadline a “crime,” he stood in solidarity with his fellow runners.
“This is criminal. Three of the best players in the entire league, at any position,” McCaffrey wrote of Barkley, Jacobs and Pollard.
Austin Egeler is playing with the Los Angeles Chargers on a significantly less lucrative 4-year, $24.5 million contract. He requested a trade this offseason to seek a new deal, but remains with the Chargers after negotiating an incentive. Like Henry, he voiced his support for his fellow running backs, while calling the disposableness of Miller’s position “garbage.”
“This is garbage that has artificially devalued one of the most important positions in the game,” Egeler wrote. “Everybody knows it’s hard to win without a top RB, but they act like widgets we can throw away. I support any RB doing whatever it takes to get his bag.”
Without a new contract of his own, Indianapolis Colts running back and 2021 NFL rushing champion Jonathan Taylor will be the same next season as Jacobs and Barkley. He is approaching the final year of his four-year, $7.8 million rookie deal. If he and the Colts don’t come to terms, he could very well face the possibility of playing under the franchise tag through the 2024 season.
He was one of the first to respond to the news Monday that Jacobs and Barkley did not receive new contracts. He was brief in his answer.
Later, he saw the same tweet from Miller, which prompted responses from Henry and Egeler. He replied in kind.
“1. If you’re good, they’ll find you,” Taylor wrote.
“2. If you work hard, you will succeed.
3. You increase the company
It’s okay, you’re a RB.”
NFL running backs are at an all-time low. Now they show solidarity. How Jacobs and Barkley approach the upcoming season without new deals will be of great interest to all parties involved.