Running backs are stealing the NFL headlines this offseason.
The sky isn’t falling.
When it comes to running backs, however, that certainly feels like the case in Philadelphia, Dallas and Minnesota.
The NFL’s silly season is underway now that teams are “legally” negotiating free agent contracts and here are the running backs stealing the headlines.
But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.
One of the first big waves to ripple through the NFL was Chip Kelly’s decision to jettison Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for rising star linebacker Kiko Alonso.
The city of Philadelphia was stunned. How could he give up our best player for a linebacker who didn’t play a down in 2015? After looking at McCoy’s new deal with the Bills, it should be easy to figure it out.
McCoy’s five-year, $40 million contract reportedly includes $26.5 million in guaranteed money. Buffalo will supposedly pay the seven-year veteran $16 million this year.
For a 5-foot-10, 210-pounder who plays the most abusive position in the league, has touched the ball 706 times in the last two seasons and only started two full years due to nagging injuries? No, thanks. Especially, for one who doesn’t get along with the head coach.
Kelly knows what he is doing. It’s a foolish move to invest huge chunks of cap space in an aging running back — no matter how talented.
DeMarco Murray and Adrian Peterson aren’t any different. Murray is coming off a breakout season for the Cowboys but Jerry Jones is making the smart move by letting his tailback test the free agent waters. Let someone else pay for his ’14 season.
Murray is one of just 10 players in NFL history to top 390 carries in a season and the disturbing track record for repeat success is enough to keep even Jones from making a football-crazed decision. Other than freak of nature Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, who did it twice and lived to tell about it, a 390-carry season all but ensures the end is near for ball carriers.
|Larry Johnson||2006||416||158 att., 559 yds., 3 TD|
|Jamal Anderson||1998||410||19 att., 59 yds., 0 TD|
|James Wilder||1984||407||365 att., 1,300 yds., 10 TD|
|Eddie George||2000||403||315 att., 939 yds., 5 TD|
|Gerald Riggs||1985||397||343 att., 1,327 yds., 9 TD|
|Terrell Davis||1998||392||67 att., 211 yds., 2 TD|
|Ricky Williams||2003||392||168 att., 743 yds., 6 TD|
|Barry Foster||1992||390||177 att., 711 yds., 8 TD|
Note: Dickerson carried 390 times as a rookie in 1983 and 404 times in '86.
Including Dickerson, only three players managed to even top 1,000 yards the following year, but even that success was short-lived. Both Gerald Riggs and James Wilder were never the same despite solid encore showings. Riggs started just 28 games in five seasons after his high-water marks in 1984-85 and Wilder scored just three times and never topped 704 yards in his five final seasons after his two breakout campaign.
No running back since Dickerson in 1986 has carried over 390 times and returned to that same level of production. Not only is NFL history against Murray but so is his own past. This is a player who constantly dealt with injuries at Oklahoma and has managed just one full season in four tries for the Cowboys.
In no way is signing Murray to an absurd free agent contract a smart idea. Jones, shockingly, is allowing someone else to make the foolish decision this time.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Vikings brass is working through a bizarre but familiar situation with Adrian Peterson. Sure, head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are pitching A.D. on returning to the Twin Cities by taking recruiting visits to his Houston-area home.
But it shouldn’t be the rocky relationship or bad off-the-field publicity that leads the Vikings to punt their star tailback. It’s simply good business.
Peterson is set to make roughly $42 million over the next three seasons with a cap number over $47 million. Peterson is the best running back of this generation, but there is no way to justify paying that amount money for a running back in his 30s who has carried the ball (and been hit hard) over 2,000 times.
It may be tough to swallow because fans bond quicker with running backs than anyone else on the field except the quarterback. But Dallas, Philadelphia and Minnesota are better off parting ways with their beloved star runners in an effort to invest in other areas.
There is a reason no running back has gone in the first round in two consecutive drafts.