If Mike Tolbert‘s contract with the Carolina Panthers tells us one thing, it is that the market for free agent running backs is about as soft as Eli Manning in a bar fight (I can only assume). According to a report by Mike Florio of Profootballtalk.com Tolbert received a four year deal worth approximately $10 million with incentives, including a $2 million signing bonus and $700,000 salary for 2012. Tolbert has 19 TD’s in the last two seasons, which puts him in a category with guys like Marshawn Lynch (18 TD’s), Michael Turner (23 TD’s), and believe it or not CJ2K (15 TD’s). I know, I know, Tolbert is not a primary back with the rushing yards to compare with these other guys right? Wrong, Tolbert is a TD machine and does exactly what he is supposed to do; Crash head first into the end zone from five yards out or catch the dump off from the QB and uses a low center of gravity to bowl over frustrated and bruised defenders. Then why is this a guy making $2 million a year? Its simple, the NFL is no longer a RB dominated league and its becoming more and more obvious. Philip Rivers and Eli Manning were locked up to the tune of $11-$16 million a year not so long ago, Mark Sanchezis right in there at about 10 million, and we all know what Peyton just got from Denver ($90 million for 5 years).
Now, you have an upper echelon of running backs who are still recieving big contracts and who will get big money deals in the future but they are becoming a smaller group every year. I have the distinct feeling that Ryan Matthews will have to continue to improve and assure the coaches he can stay healthy an entire season by actually doing it. Then and only then will he be getting anything close to the tune of $6+ million per year.
So the QB’s are getting paid, the running backs on the other hand are just trying to land a decent gig it would appear. Jackie Battle left the Chargers facility without a deal today per the San Diego Union Tribune, and guys like Michael Bush, Cadillac Williams, Brandon Jacobs and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are still flying around the country trying to get a job. Now, there’s no doubt these guys will be employed sooner or later but at what price tag? You can bet your last bag of Gummy Bears that it won’t be anywhere near the $20 million dollar deal DeAngelo Williams scored from the Panthers last year, and go head and bet those sweet little treats again that they will be paid like a bunch of place kickers. Doesn’t really seem fair considering that running back is known for it’s 30 year old production slips and brutal hits from ravenous linebackers does it?
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