The National Football League has become a throw first, rock ’em-sock ’em league. Passing records have been broken, scoreboards and defensive backs have been lit up, and the fanatics of it all smile from ear to ear like the Cheshire cat. Travel by air has certainly become the favored mode of transport for the pigskin.
Lost in all of this is the running back. Now splitting time with as many as three others at the same position, the running back of yore is no more. The days of Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, and Marshall Faulk are gone. Multi-headed monsters have been spawned and are not looking to go anywhere soon. Not that this type of approach is a completely bad idea. The shelf life of a running back is very low. Pairing them up would serve to keep them fresh and extend their careers, even if lowered numbers in the stats column and box scores means a lowered pay day as well.
But what if there were a way around all that? What if you were one of the best running backs in the NFL, and didn’t split your time as much as some of the other “feature” backs? What if your team made the playoffs, or even made it deep into the playoffs?
Let’s take a quick look at three of the running backs that remain in this year’s NFL playoffs. When these backs come to my mind at least, I consider them more of the “feature back” on their team. Being in the playoffs will only help to pad their wallets.
Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, Arian Foster of the Houston Texans, and Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49’ers are all great players, and don’t necessarily split as much of their time on the field as the rest of their playoff peers. The fact that these backs likely will get hefty salary bumps in their careers, being in the playoffs lands them more cash for each round that they advance. Hell, being a player in the wild card round on a non-division winner regardless of position banks you $19,000. Hitting the hole, having great timing, and a keen eye for pass catching will bring you glory, fame, and dough. The ones that stand out from the rest will not only get their stats, but help launch their teams to over all success and a trek through the post season.
If we just focus on Arian Foster, a player that just finished a wild card win with the Texans, a division winner, has already pocketed $42,000 in playoff bonus money. Divisional round participants receive an extra $21,000 on top of the $21,000 they got from the wild card round (or $19,000). For Foster, this is key. Foster is at the end of a 3-year deal with the Texans that leaves him as a restricted free agent this off-season. Foster had a base salary of $525,000 without any type of signing bonus. If he ends up somehow helping Houston to a Super Bowl win, he will have racked up another $163,000 in playoff bonuses. You can see where that would help. Especially without a contract extension to speak of. And why no extension? Because it’s going to be expensive for Houston, and he’s a running back. General managers are scared to give runners long-term deals in fear of injury. Long term deals mean big signing bonuses.
Running backs have a small career life span, if they hit a large payday AND have playoff success, their careers don’t have to be long to have fat pockets before they’re injured, battered, and or bruised out of the game. I have deep respect for the ones like Foster, Rice, and Gore who take the ball and run. Run for the money that is.