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What’s a top running back worth in today’s NFL? Murray will find out

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles

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The NFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year is 27 years old, in his prime, and about to hit unrestricted free agency. If any running back can make a fortune in today’s NFL, it’s DeMarco Murray.

But Murray may discover that no running back can make a fortune in today’s NFL. At least, not “a fortune” compared to what the top free agents at other positions will make.

Murray, the soon-to-be free agent Cowboy who led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards last season, will give us a good benchmark for how much a running back can command in today’s NFL. Unfortunately for Murray, the answer will be, “Nowhere near as much as a running back could command in yesterday’s NFL.”

There is almost no chance that Murray will get as much as the seven-year, $96 million contract (with $36 million guaranteed) that Adrian Peterson got from the Vikings in 2011, the biggest contract ever for a running back. That’s despite the fact that Peterson wasn’t a free agent at the time and could therefore negotiate only with the Vikings, and despite the fact that the NFL salary cap has risen from $120 million in 2011 to $143 million this year.

Murray may do quite well for himself, perhaps getting the second-biggest contract for a running back in NFL history. But there’s no way he’ll get as much as this year’s top free agent, Ndamukong Suh, and he may not do as well as the next group of free agents, like Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, Patriots safety Devin McCourty, Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes and Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds.

Running backs just don’t make the kind of money that players at other positions can make. In the NFL, running backs are viewed as lower-priced commodities. Even a running back who just won Offensive Player of the Year.