RBs should stop complaining and listen to what the NFL is saying: You’re not that valuable.

INDIANAPOLIS – Is this where we have to get mad about the salary NFL running back? Or are we allowed to think for ourselves, use that thing we call a “brain” and try to apply something known as “logic” to a situation that doesn’t exactly break my heart?

Jonathan Taylor, it’s not about you. Not really. Well maybe a little bit.

For starters, and I say this with respect: Don’t complain. Stop whining. Stop taking to social media to bemoan the career choice you made where by the end of the 2025 NFL season you will have made $30 million.

Before you turn 26.

Can I say all that? Can anyone be the voice of reason, the voice of capitalism – America! — and stand in front of this self-pitying locomotive powered by New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley while the national media rides shotgun?

Or maybe this is where I prove my bona fides as A Man Of The People and climb aboard a cardboard box — where Barkley might have to live if he doesn’t get his due — and insist that the Giants pay Barkley (more) and the Colts pay Taylor (more). Otherwise, the NFL better change the way it treats its running backs or we’re going to have a problem.

Couldn’t we just give a hat instead?

‘It doesn’t matter you’re a RB’: Jonathan Taylor reacts to RBs not getting contracts

Let’s see what Saquon Barkley stands to earn between now and next year, when he finally becomes an unrestricted free agent. Give me a moment while I do that math. Let’s see, says here Barkley’s 2018 rookie contract plus the team’s 2022 extension was for five years and $38.3 million. If he and the Giants don’t agree to an extension between now and 2025, if the Giants give Barkley that draconian thing called a “franchise tag,” he’ll make about $10.1 million in ’23 and $12.1 million in ’24.

For Barkley, since entering the NFL in 2018, that’s seven years for a total of about $60 million.

We need a bigger hat.

The NFL’s franchise brand caused this mess

There’s a bigger issue here, the only one I’m willing to hear: The franchise tag was designed to let NFL teams hang onto a star quarterback for more than four years. The NFL and NFLPA could not possibly negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with one set of rules for one position and another set of rules for everyone else, so that the franchise tag would be applied to players all over the field.

Even – and I know this is going to sound harsh – for running backs.

Now that we’ve seen the unintended consequences of the brand, the way it’s married the shorter career spans — and interchangeability — of running backs to suppress their contracts relative to other positions, maybe the NFL and NFLPA could come to an agreement, though I’ll be damned if I see one that would work for the league as a whole.

Because whatever happens with Barkley, with Taylor, with the running back position as a whole, the rules have to work for everybody at that position. Does it make sense, both logically and compassionately, for mileage-heavy players as big as Barkley and Taylor to be able to hit the free agent market a little quicker than, say, a kicker? Of course it does.

But to do it for Barkley and Taylor, the NFL and NFLPA would have to do it for all running backs. Even the lesser-known guys, the reserves, the ones waiting for their chance to be carriers. Those who haven’t been beaten is my point. And there are many more of those guys in the NFL. Should every running back hit the market faster than mileage-heavy receivers and linemen and cornerbacks when most NFL running backs get less than 50 carries a year?

It doesn’t seem right.

Should the NFL and NFLPA change franchise tag rules to lump running backs, receivers and tight ends into the same category? That is another theory. In other words, ignore reality and pretend receivers and tight ends are as interchangeable as running backs, even though they’re not.

And it’s tempting to do something, I’ll grant you that. Because I’m so sick of hearing Saquon Barkley whine about the $60 million he’s going to make before he turns 29. And it’s not right to see someone as admirable as Jonathan Taylor take to social media and seek reassurance from his followers – average salary in Indiana: $48,253 — that the Colts owe him more than the $30 million he stands to make before his 26th birthdayth birthday.

Let me tell you a story about Trent Richardson.

‘It doesn’t matter you’re a RB’: Colts Jonathan Taylor reacts to RBs not getting contracts

The Colts won more with Trent Richardson than Jonathan Taylor

Trent Richardson is a punch line now and it’s not his fault. He didn’t select himself No. 3 overall in the 2012 NFL draft. It was the Cleveland Browns. He didn’t trade himself a year later for a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. It was the Colts.

Richardson’s career did not last long here or elsewhere. He has not played in the NFL since 2014, when the Colts released him. In 14 games here in 2013, he averaged 2.9 yards per carry. In 15 games in 2014, he averaged 3.3 yards per carry.

He wasn’t very good.

The Colts went 11-5 both years. Do you know why? Because running backs don’t matter that much. Not when Andrew Luck is playing quarterback.

Colts record with Trent Richardson: 21-9. (He debuted in the third game in 2013.)

Colts record with Jonathan Taylor: 24-25-1.

You know the strange streak of quarterbacks we’ve seen here since 2017, how the Colts are entering their seventh straight season with a new starter at quarterback? Do you know why this is such a big deal? Because the Colts have only won one playoff game in that time.

Doyel in 2022: Heels stink because they keep getting their QB at a garage sale

No one is talking about the strange run of running backs in Kansas City in 2018, where the Chiefs have had a different rushing leader from one season to the next. Do you know why it’s not a big deal? BECAUSE THEY HAVE WON TWO SUPER BOWLS AND REACHED FIVE STRAIGHT AFC TITLE GAMES.


Pardon. I’m not the one yelling. Those are the facts.


Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) dives into the end zone for a touchdown Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Are they funny? Of course. Jonathan Taylor was a blast in 2021 as he led the league in rushing. He was a threat to score every time he touched the ball. It was entertaining.

The Colts missed the playoffs that season because they weren’t good enough at quarterback, left tackle, receiver, pass rush or cornerback. You know, the positions that make all the money.


Leading rushers for Colts’ past six playoff teams: Donald Brown (2010), Vick Ballard (’12), Brown (’13), Richardson (’14), Marlon Mack (’18), Taylor (’20).

The Donald Brown era was great, wasn’t it?

Here’s the thing about capitalism and fair market value: It’s OK when quarterbacks get obscene-sounding contracts like the $50 (bleeding) million Aaron Rodgers will make this season in New York. It’s OK when a No. 1 receiver like Davante Adams and AJ Brown sign nine-figure contracts because they’re so rare. The same goes for a left tackle, a defensive end, a cornerback. The market says the 49ers’ Trent Williams ($138 million contract), Chargers’ Khalil Mack ($141 million) and Cleveland’s Denzel Ward ($100.5 million) are worth it.

The market says Saquon Barkley is worth $22.2 million over the next two years. Not bad for the leading rusher on a team that has gone 28-53-1 since he arrived.

The market says Josh Jacobs of the Raiders is worth $10.9 million this season. Not bad for someone who led the league in rushing and his team to a 6-11 mark.

The market, whether contract extension or franchise tag, will determine what Jonathan Taylor is worth to the Colts in 2024. Whatever happens, he will make at least $10 million in ’24.

When the market talks, you listen. Because I’m not the only one shouting.

Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at www.facebook.com/greggdoyelstar.

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This article originally appeared on the Indianapolis Star: NFL running back market talks Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Taylor

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