This time last year, the media chorus was signing that the running back position had been severely devalued in the modern NFL. Part of that, no doubt, was true: it is undeniable that less draft capital is being spent on running backs.
When I wrote about the 2014 Running Back Free Agent Market last year and how little they were being paid, I made sure to link to a pretty key point made by Jason Lisk at the Big Lead: the free agent class just wasn’t very good. Last year, the top free agent running backs were Toby Gerhart ($4.5M guaranteed, $7M over the first two years of his contract), Donald Brown ($4, $7), Rashad Jennings ($2.98, $5.25), Maurice Jones-Drew ($1.2, $5.0), Ben Tate ($2.5, $4.35), and Knowshon Moreno ($1.25, $4.25).
In case you forgot, here’s a quick summary of how those backs fared last year:
- Gerhart averaged 3.2 yards per carry over 101 carries and was benched;
- Brown averaged 2.6 YPC over 85 carries and was benched;
- Jennings rushed for 639 yards in 11 games, missing 5 due to injury;
- Jones-Drew averaged 2.2 YPC over 43 carries and is now retired;
- Tate was cut after 106 carries and 8 games;and
- Moreno was limited to 3 games due to injury.
This was an underwhelming class of free agent running backs that somehow fell far, far short of expectations. Then, Chris Johnson joined the class, and signed a two-year, $8M contract with $4M guaranteed. The Jets cut him after one season, where he gained 814 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns in 16 games. [click to continue…]