NFL Superstars (& O.J. Simpson) Go Nuts Over RB Contract Controversy

Yesterday’s deadline for franchised players to agree to long-term contracts passed without deals for the New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley, the Las Vegas Raiders’ Josh Jacobs, and the Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Pollard.

The three star running backs were among the six players who received the franchise tag but failed to reach long-term agreements ahead of the 4pm EST deadline.

As a result, Barkley, Jacobs, and Pollard will play the upcoming 2023 season under their respective franchise tenders, each worth $10.091 million for running backs.

While Pollard has already signed his tender, both Barkley and Jacobs remain unsigned and have chosen to stay away from their teams’ offseason programs and may very well hold out of at least a portion of training camp. 

“It is what it is,” Barkley tweeted on Monday, expressing his feelings about the situation.

As franchise-tagged players, Barkley and Jacobs cannot be fined for missing training camp, which is set to begin on July 25 for veterans on the Giants and Raiders. They will only lose money if they miss regular-season games, forfeiting game checks.

The lack of long-term deals for these star running backs has drawn attention to the complexities of franchise tag negotiations.

Only three out of the six players who received the franchise tag this offseason managed to secure long-term extensions before yesterday’s deadline.

Barkley’s contract negotiations with the Giants have been marked by challenges from the start. An initial offer made during the bye week last November was not seriously considered by Barkley, according to reports.

Talks were postponed until after the season, but even as offers increased this year, reaching a potential $14 million per season, the issues of guaranteed money and contract structure remained sticking points.

The Giants eventually opted to use the franchise tag on Barkley after signing quarterback Daniel Jones, indicating that it was always a possibility, as stated by General Manager Joe Schoen.

However, no agreement was reached before the deadline.

Barkley, who recorded a career-high 1,312 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns last season, has expressed frustration with the way the contract talks and offers were portrayed in the media.

He believes that the leaked stories were misleading and painted an inaccurate picture of his stance on the negotiations.

Similarly, Jacobs declined an offer from the Raiders as he sought a more lucrative contract. The 25-year-old running back had a stellar 2022 season, leading the NFL in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage while scoring 12 touchdowns.

Jacobs’ exceptional performance caught the attention of the league, and he became the first Raiders player to lead the league in rushing since Marcus Allen in 1985.

Throughout the process, Jacobs remained relatively silent, occasionally sharing cryptic tweets that hinted at his desire to advocate for change in a system that he believes undervalues the running back position financially.

Meanwhile, Tony Pollard will take on the lead running back role for the Dallas Cowboys this season after the team released long-time starter Ezekiel Elliott. Pollard has expressed his readiness to fully participate in training camp after undergoing a “tightrope” procedure on his ankle following the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers in January.

Pollard’s Pro Bowl-worthy performance last season, with over 1,000 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, has earned him a prominent role in the Cowboys offense for the upcoming season.

Regardless of what ends up happening with Barkley and Jacobs, it’s no secret that the running back position has become increasingly devalued through the years.

Many current and former NFL stars took to social media to express their frustration over the major financial hit the position has taken as a hole.

“At this point, just take the RB position out the game then. The ones that want to be great & work as hard as they can to give their all to an organization, just seems like it don’t even matter. I’m with every RB that’s fighting to get what they deserve.” -Derrick Henry

“This is Criminal. Three of the best PLAYERS in the entire league, regardless of position.” -Christian McCaffrey

“This is the kind of trash that has artificially devalued one of the most important positions in the game. Everyone knows it’s tough to win without a top RB and yet they act like we are discardable widgets. I support any RB doing whatever it takes to get his bag.” -Austin Ekeler

“I agree with my running back brothers around the NFL- history will show that you need running backs to win- we set the tone every game and run trough walls for our team and lead in many ways- this notion that we deserve less is a joke.” -Najee Harris

“1. If you’re good enough, they’ll find you. 2. If you work hard enough, you’ll succeed…If you succeed…3. You boost the Organization…and then…Doesn’t matter, you’re a RB.” -Jonathan Taylor

“Can someone please explain this?” -Dez Bryant

O.J. Simpson even poked his head out of his hole to give his take on the situation…