© Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s been a rough decade for running backs as NFL teams have engaged in a full-scale lockout for most players post rookie contracts. But as is the case with everything - a few exceptions continue to remain. We’ll take a look at which active running backs have a chance to buck the devaluation trend, and lock in a multi-year contract extension in the coming months.

Top Average Paid Running Backs
Largest Running Back Guarantees
2024 Running Back Free Agents

Jonathan Taylor (Colts, 24)

Contract Status: 1 year, $4.3M, 2024 UFA
Calculated Valuation: 4 years, $52M ($13M per year)

Taylor posted 3,600+ yards from scrimmage over his first 2 NFL seasons, including 76 catches out of the backfield in Indy. But an ankle injury (and possible regression?) hampered his 2022 campaign, slowing the conversation about the next McCaffrey type extension considerably. With his rookie contract set to expire after the upcoming season, is Taylor the next prime candidate for a tag or two?

Prediction: Taylor is offered a projected $13M franchise tag next February, but the two sides agree on a multi-year extension during the offseason, due in large part to the QB1’s rookie contract.

Saquon Barkley (Giants, 26)

Contract Status: 1 year, $10.091M tag offered
Calculated Valuation: 4 years, $49M ($12.25M per year)

Barkley has been public both about his dissatisfaction with the Giants recent contract offers, and with the possibility of playing out a franchise tag in 2023. Something’s going to need to give as the July 15th extension deadline approaches - because sitting out just hasn’t proven to be the stance it used to be. He’s worth a two year guarantee, even with the health risks.

Prediction: The Giants and Barkley agree to a 4 year, $60M contract extension that includes $25M fully guaranteed, $3M more than he would cash on back to back franchise tags. 

Josh Jacobs (Raiders, 25)

Contract Status: 1 year, $10.091M tag offered
Calculated Valuation: 4 years, $51M ($12.75M per year)

Financially speaking, Jacobs and Barkley are walking down the same path right now, but the two situations feel very different on the surface. A) Jacobs has been radio silent about his future B) The Raiders aren’t necessarily in “contention” like the Giants may be come Christmas. C) Jacobs is an entire year younger than Barkley, which could give him leeway to sit this season out while demanding a contract or trade. Statistically, Jacobs found his pass-catching legs in 2021, then put the whole package together in his contract season last year (2,000 yards from scrimmage, 53 catches, 12 TDs). He’s worthy of a two year guarantee right now.

Hot Take Prediction: Jacobs is traded to the Cincinnati Bengals, for Joe Mixon and a pick, who in turn extend him to a 4 year, $55M contract, with $25M fully guaranteed through 2024. 

Measured Prediction: He signs the tag, the Raiders stumble out of the gate, and he demands a deadline trade.

Tony Pollard (Cowboys, 26)

Contract Status: 1 year, $10.091M tag signed
Calculated Valuation: 4 year, $40M ($10M per year)

Pollard was on a fast track to a multi-year extension in Dallas when a broken fibula derailed the process. The Cowboys responded with a tag offered, and Pollard signed it almost immediately. Dallas has yet to replace Zeke Elliott on the roster, potentially further showing their trust and need for Pollard in this offseason.

Prediction: The two sides agree to a compromising midpoint before July 15th, and Pollard signs a 3 year, $27M contract, with $15M fully guaranteed.

JK Dobbins (Ravens, 25)

Contract Status: 1 year, $1.4M, 2024 UFA
Calculated Valuation: 2 years, $8M ($4M per year)

After a promising rookie campaign, Dobbins missed all of 2021, and half of 2022. His metrics through 8 games last season however showed promise, but the lack of availability has to be a major suppressant to any type of contract negotiation currently in the works. He’s a bridge contract candidate at best.

Prediction: 2023 free agency showed us one thing: The days of bidding wars for running backs are over. Baltimore lets this ride to free agency and tries to keep him around at about the calculated value, possibly even less.

A.J. Dillon (Packers, 25)

Contract Status: 1 year, $1.3M, 2024 UFA
Calculated Valuation: 2 years, $8M ($4M per year)

The Packers probably expected Dillon to have the keys to the running back room by now, but a $5M pay cut for Aaron Jones this March keeps him atop the depth chart for another season. He’s been active for every game over the past two seasons, but the yards per attempt is hovering around the 4 mark during that span, and the pass catching production took a serious step backward in 2022. It’s very possible that the Packers’ offense will be geared more towards the run game with Jordan Love at the helm, so it could be a perfect timing scenario for Dillon’s expiring.

Prediction: Green Bay hasn’t yet drafted a replacement for Dillon, so there’s reason to believe they are willing to give this a serious thought in the coming months. Playing out 2023 is probably best for both sides here.

D’Andre Swift (Eagles, 24)

Contract Status: 1 year, $1.7M, 2024 UFA
Calculated Valuation: 4 years, $26M ($6.5M per year)

Swift was acquired from Detroit at the end of April for a 2025 4th round pick and a 7th round pick swap. He’s never been able to manage a full workload, but won’t be asked to do so in Philadelphia - who have routinely used a 3-4 back rotation for years now. There’s a world where Swift slots into Miles Sanders’ role however, a situation that just scored him a 4 year, $25.4M contract on the open market.

Prediction: The Eagles have no reason to jump the gun here. Swift plays out his rookie contract and is a fringe franchise tag candidate next February, with free agency the most likely outcome here.



Rhamondre Stevenson (Patriots, 25)

Stevenson made himself known early on last season and should have a full boat of duties in 2023 before he becomes extension eligible. The Patriots might offer him an early extension - but it’s highly unlikely that it will represent a top of the market bottom line - even if he deserves it.

Nick Chubb (Browns, 27)

He’s almost 28, and the contract holds a non-guaranteed $12M in 2024, but he’s also still highly productive and and integral piece to this Browns’ puzzle. Most running backs aren’t even sniffing a second contract in this league - but Chubb may be trending toward a third.

Javonte Williams (Broncos, 23)

It’s not inconceivable that Williams fully recovers from a torn ACL, LCL, & PCL and regains full control of the Broncos’ running game. Age is in his favor, even if nothing else appears to be right now.

Christian McCaffrey (49ers, 27)

McCaffrey’s in a truly great situation right now from every angle: Contract, Team Fit, Rostered QB Money. His holds $12M this year, $12M next year, and $12.2M for 2025, but the early guarantees have dissipated. He just turned 27 years old, so there’s at least some reason to start thinking about the exit game here, but that simply might be a rip it up and start it over type scenario after the upcoming season.

Top Average Paid Running Backs
Largest Running Back Guarantees
2024 Running Back Free Agents