49ers' McCaffrey: Running backs are undervalued by NFL
San Francisco 49ers star halfback Christian McCaffrey believes that the NFL has devalued the running back position.
"Somewhere along the line, the running back position has been undervalued, in my opinion, for what they're asked to do," McCaffrey said on the "Rich Eisen Show" last week. "And I think there are a lot of guys that are scared to speak up about that for multiple reasons.
"I don't know when the value of a yard got diminished."
The valuation of running backs has plummeted over the years despite them touching the ball often over the course of a game. McCaffrey points to legends Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders as pioneers who not only produced consistently but also displayed longevity in the league.
The average salary at the position is only slightly higher than that of fullbacks, punters, and long snappers, per Spotrac.
"When I look at what receivers make around the league, and then you look at what running backs make, we're at the bottom of the list," McCaffrey said.
The soon to be 27-year-old disagrees with the notion that because tailbacks touch the ball often they'll be susceptible to injuries, especially since receivers who got hurt were still able to cash in with big contracts. Supportive of all players being able to land lucrative extensions, McCaffrey says that running backs deserve more compensation based on their role.
McCaffrey is one of only three players in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing yards and receiving in the same season, doing so during his stellar 2019 campaign as a member of the Carolina Panthers.
The two-time Pro Bowler signed a four-year, $64-million extension with the Panthers in 2020, making him the highest-paid player at the position with an annual average salary of $16 million, per Over the Cap.
Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard each had the franchise tag placed on them this offseason. Each player would earn slightly over $10 million under the one-year tender that is fully guaranteed.
"So there's a lot of arguments multiple ways," he said. "But I definitely think somewhere along the line, the franchise tag and what the market did to the running back position, I think they're definitely undervalued. And I think if you asked the running backs around the league, they would probably say the same thing."