Here are the highest paid NFL running backs amid Saquon Barkley’s contract dispute

Here are the highest paid NFL running backs amid Saquon Barkley’s contract dispute

The life of an NFL running back isn’t always as easy as it may seem.

Sure, they still get paid millions to play the game they love. But compared to their peers, running backs are underpaid and undervalued across the league.

In this offseason alone there have been several stars who failed to cash in, at least so far.

Reigning rushing champion Josh Jacobs, former No. 2 pick Saquon Barkley and 2022 Pro Bowler Tony Pollard were all franchise tagged by their respective teams and have yet to receive long-term contracts. Three other former Pro Bowlers – Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette – were cut by their teams and remain unsigned despite being under 30.

Here’s a full breakdown of the highest paid running backs in the NFL, plus a full update on Barkley’s situation with the New York Giants:

Who are the highest paid running backs in the NFL in 2023?

A rookie running back will actually receive the most cash of any player at the position in 2023. The Atlanta Falcons drafted Bijan Robinson at No. 8 overall in April, immediately making him the highest-paid running back for this season at $13,719,844. The Texas product doesn’t have the biggest running back contract – and he won’t hold this title after his rookie season – but for now the crown is his.

Here’s the top 15 highest-paid running backs for 2023 in terms of total cash (via Spotrac):

1. Bijan Robinson, Falcons: $13.72 million

2. Christian McCaffrey, 49ers: $12 million

3. Alvin Kamara, Saints: $11 million

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4. Aaron Jones, Packers: $10.965 million

5. Nick Chubb, Browns: $10.85 million

6. Derrick Henry, Titans: $10.5 million

7. Joe Mixon, Bengals: $10.1 million

T-8. Josh Jacobs, Raiders: $10.091 million

T-8. Saquon Barkley, Giants: $10.091 million

T-8. Tony Pollard, Cowboys: $10.091 million

11. James Conner, Cardinals: $8.445 million

12. Miles Sanders, Panthers: $6.98 million

T-13. Austin Ekeler, Chargers: $6.25 million

T-13. David Montgomery, Lions: $6.25 million

15. Jamaal Williams, Saints: $5 million

In terms of total contract value, the list looks a bit different. Kamara and McCaffrey lead the way with the total cash throughout the duration of their current deals (via Spotrac):

1. Kamara: 5 years, $75 million (three years remaining)

2. McCaffrey: 4 years, $64.1 million (three years remaining)

3. Henry: 4 years, $50 million (one year remaining)

T-4. Jones: 4 years, $48 million (two years remaining)

T-4. Mixon: 4 years, $48 million (one year remaining)

6. Chubb: 3 years, $36.6 million (two years remaining)

7. Sanders: 4 years, $25.4 million (four years remaining)

8. Ekeler: 4 years, $24.5 million (one year remaining)

9. Robinson: 4 years, $21.96 million (four years remaining)

10. Conner: 3 years, $21 million (two years remaining)

While rookie contracts like Robinson’s are fully guaranteed, almost every other running back deal is only partially secured. Here’s a look at the running backs with the most guaranteed money in their contract:

1. McCaffrey: $38,162,500

2. Kamara: $33,833,000

3. Henry: $25,500,000

4. Robinson: $21,958,535

5. Chubb: $20,000,000

6. Ekeler: $15,000,000

7. Conner: $13,500,000

8. Najee Harris, Steelers: $13,047,447

T-9. Jones: $13,000,000

T-9. Sanders: $13,000,000

What’s the average salary for a running back in the NFL?

As of June 13, running backs across the NFL have an average salary of $1,797,242 (via Spotrac).

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Running backs rank 17th of the 20 positions listed on Spotrac (including offense, defense and special teams), ahead of only fullbacks, punters and long snappers in terms of average salary.

Which running back has the most career earnings in NFL history?

To make a lot of money as a running back, you have to play a lot of years and – most importantly – stay relatively healthy. Getting drafted high is an added bonus, as rookie contracts can often be among the most lucrative for this position (as you can tell from the 2023 salary list).

Here are the running backs with the most career earnings in NFL contracts through the 2022 season (via Spotrac):

1. Adrian Peterson, 15 seasons: $103,215,972

2. Ezekiel Elliott, 7 seasons: $70,668,561

3. Edgerrin James, 11 seasons: $68,909,750

4. Frank Gore, 16 seasons: $63,296,439

5. Reggie Bush, 11 seasons: $63,196,734

6. LeSean McCoy, 12 seasons: $63,074,623

7. Emmitt Smith, 15 seasons: $61,275,000

8. LaDainian Tomlinson, 11 seasons: $56,875,500

9. Marshawn Lynch, 12 seasons: $56,769,878

10. Christian McCaffrey, 6 seasons: $53,649,263

11. Steven Jackson, 12 seasons: $53,439,117

12. Jonathan Stewart, 11 seasons: $51,125,506

13. Darren McFadden, 10 seasons: $49,322,441

14. Todd Gurley, 6 seasons: $49,066,286

15. Marshall Faulk, 13 seasons: $48,935,000

How much money will Saquon Barkley make in 2023?

Barkley, along with Jacobs and Pollard, will make $10,091,000 in 2023 if he doesn’t receive a long-term deal before the July 17 franchise tag extension deadline.

Pollard is the only one of the three who has signed his franchise tag, as Barkley and Jacobs continue to seek more long-term security.

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What is the latest Saquon Barkley contract update?

Instead of attending OTAs and minicamp with the Giants, Barkley is holding out in hopes of getting a new contract. On Monday, he hosted his inner city youth football camp and spoke to the media for the first time this offseason.

“It’s all about respect,” Barkley said, via ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, before confirming he wants to remain a Giant for life and isn’t looking to reset the running back market with a massive salary.

Several of Barkley’s teammates and coaches appeared at the camp to show support, including defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, tight end Darren Waller, safety Dane Belton, linebacker Micah McFadden and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.

There appears to be no progress toward a deal at this time with a little over a month before the deadline.