In the NFL, running backs play a crucial and often glamorous role. These athletes, known for their speed, agility, and power, are pivotal in dictating the tempo and success of the offense.
Yet, amidst their on-field heroics, a question lingers in the air – what is the average salary of an NFL running back?
We poured through the 2023 salaries for every player on every team, including the 120 active running backs in the league. In this article, we’ll share the average salary for a running back this year as well as the top ten earners at the position.
Understanding the Role of a Running Back
The position of a running back is multifaceted, demanding a blend of physical prowess and strategic thinking.
Primarily, these players are responsible for carrying the ball on running plays, requiring exceptional agility to dodge defenders and strength to push through tackles. But their role doesn’t end there; running backs also serve as vital pass receivers and key protectors for the quarterback during passing plays.
Their impact on the game is undeniable. A skilled running back can control the clock, manage the pace of the game, and provide a versatile option in both the running and passing game. This ability to influence the outcome of a game makes the running back position one of the most dynamic and celebrated roles in football.
However, this acclaim doesn’t always translate directly into their salaries, a topic that encompasses various factors including the physical demands of the role, team strategies, and the overall market trends in the NFL.
Factors Influencing Running Back Salaries
There are multiple factors that heavily influence the salaries of running backs. Here are just a few.
Career Longevity and Injury Risks
Running backs often face a career trajectory different from other positions due to higher injury risks and physical demands. The intense physical toll taken on their bodies can lead to shorter careers, which in turn influences their earning potential. Teams often factor in these risks when negotiating contracts, which can result in comparatively lower salaries and shorter terms.
Team Strategy and Offense Style
The offensive strategy of a team plays a significant role in determining the value of a running back. In teams where the running game is pivotal, a talented running back might command a higher salary. Conversely, in teams that focus more on passing, the role and consequently the salary of a running back might be diminished.
Market Trends and Salary Cap
The overall market trends and the NFL’s salary cap also greatly impact running back salaries. With the league’s evolving offensive strategies leaning more towards passing, the market value for running backs has seen fluctuations.
Additionally, the salary cap limits how much teams can spend on their entire roster, affecting how much they can allocate to running backs.
Analyzing the Numbers
Now, let’s take a look at some of the actual numbers from the 2023 season.
The average salary of a running back in the NFL is $2,142,109.
This number is significantly less than most of the other positions on the field. Take the quarterback position for example. Quarterbacks make almost 3x (5.8 million) of what a running back makes.
The average is just one part of the story though. Running back salaries range from $125,001 for Tyler Goodson of the Colts to over $16 million for Derrick Henry.
Top-Paid Running Backs
Here are the 10 highest-paid running backs in the NFL:
The Rookie Perspective
The rookie wage cap that the NFL has in place limits how much rookies can be paid based on their draft position. This has a substantial effect on running backs who many feel are at their highest value early in their career, before the wear and tear that the position brings.
Take the two 1st round draft picks from last season, Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs. Both players had a big impact on their respective teams this season at salaries of $4 million and $3.2 million.
Perhaps even more surprising is the salary of 2nd round pick Zach Charbonnet who made just over $1.2 million this season.
In summary, the average salary for an NFL running back is influenced by a multitude of factors, including the physical demands of the position, team strategies, market trends, and individual player performance.
While some top-tier running backs command significant salaries, the average figures are shaped by the position’s challenging nature and evolving role in the league.