Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Slow going on open market for running backs like Melvin Gordon, Leonard Fournette

Running backs rarely get paid a lot of money in free agency. The best ones usually stay with the teams with which they became stars, since the money is rarely if ever better for them on the open market.

This year, plenty of running backs with name recognition are finding the going slow in free agency.

Former Chargers and Broncos running back Melvin Gordon, for example, has received very limited interest. And that’s possibly an overstatement. Likewise, former Jaguars and Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette, who was hoping to get (we’re told) $12 million per year, continues to wait.

Others still available include Phillip Lindsay, Ronald Jones, Sony Michel, Tarik Cohen, Davi Johnson, and Devontae Booker.

The best running back deal this year was secured by a guy who didn’t hit the market at all. Cardinals running back James Conner, after signing a one-year, $1.75 million deal in 2021, scored a three-year, $21 million contract to stay in Arizona. The agreement pays out $13.5 million guaranteed, along with another $2 million non-guaranteed payment due in March 2023.

Conner is the lucky one. But he’s proof of what can happen if a running back lands with a new team and makes a big splash. NFL franchises will pay good money to keep running backs who have performed at a high level.

It’s also a reminder that running backs need to get what they can while they can. Every year, there’s a fresh crop of tailbacks who can move the chains at the next level. They’re younger, cheaper, healthier. With 53 roster spots per team, something has to give.

Usually, it’s older running backs either not getting very much or not getting enough to justify continuing to subject themselves to the physical pounding that goes with the position they play.