A group of star NFL running backs met on a Zoom call over the weekend to discuss the spiraling market their position has experienced in recent seasons.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb confirmed the call on Sunday, noting the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry and Saquon Barkley were also involved in the meeting reportedly set up by Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler, per Pro Football Talk.
"Right now, it's just talking, there's really nothing we can do," Chubb said of the meeting, via the team's official transcript. "We're kind of handcuffed with the situation, but what I took from it -- McCaffrey, Derrick Henry and Saquon all had a lot of good points. The biggest thing is that we're the only position where our production hurts us the most. If we go out there and run 2,000 yards with so many carries, the next year they're going to say you're probably worn down. That's the biggest thing that I took from it. It's tough. It hurts us just to go out there and do well. It hurts us at the end of the day."
While the salary cap has increased, RBs haven't seen their piece of the money pie rise alongside fellow players of other positions. This offseason, we witnessed big-money backs like Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott jettisoned, the top three backs entering free agency -- Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard -- all got franchise tagged at $10.091 million, and the top free agent contract given out this offseason was Miles Sanders' four-year, $25.4 million deal ($6.35 million per year).
When the July deadline passed for the franchise-tagged players to secure long-term deals with none getting that multi-year security, outrage from running backs ensued.
"They say we get hit every play and we're more injury prone when we're all on the field doing the same thing," Chubb said of his perception of the situation. "But only that applies to us. I would say if we're taking the most risk and doing the most, then we should be valued more."
Clubs have deemed it more financially prudent to pay backs less, given the surplus of runners on the market. Whether correct or not, many teams view the position as one in which a player's production can be more easily replaced. Therefore it's better to spend dollars elsewhere.
The last back to receive a $10-plus-million long-term contract was Chubb in 2021. While the Browns back believes he's in a different situation than others right now, he admitted that with no guaranteed money next year, he could find himself in a similar spot as other RBs.
"Yeah, I got another year. I mean, it's easy for me to say it's not a big deal, but next year it could be me in the same situation," he said. "But for right now, I do have one more year, but I'm here, I'm all in. I'm ready to work my guys."
Chubb added he hasn't discussed a contract extension with Cleveland.
"No, I'm focused on just playing right now," he said as the Browns kicked off training camp at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.
Browns general manager Andrew Berry was asked whether Chubb might have anything to worry about in his future.
"Nick Chubb is the type of player and person that you hope is with the organization as long as possible," Berry responded.
For most backs, that "as long as possible" has dwindled and dwindled. It's the issue they're attempting to sort out.