- Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer
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A lot has been made of the devaluation of running backs throughout the league.
The premium on running backs is dropped because more teams are running spread offenses and the passing game is taking a priority over the run game. Of the 19 free-agent running backs who have signed since March 11, only one has a deal that's worth an average annual value of at least $3.5 million.
The devaluation of running backs isn't new in 2014. During the first round of last year's NFL draft, not a single running back was chosen. And neither of ESPN NFL draft insiders, Mel Kiper nor Todd McShay, have a running back going in the first round of their latest mock drafts.
It's gotten to the point that in some cases, punters are earning more than running backs. This tweet by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, shows difference in the guaranteed money between the top kicker, punter and running back contracts signed this offseason.
Most Gtd $ in RB/K/P deals this year: K Robbie Gould $8.85M K Dan Bailey $7.5M RB D. Sproles $5.5M P Pat McAfee $5.25M RB Toby Gerhart $4.5M
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 8, 2014
The Arizona Cardinals are among the teams who are paying their punter more than most or all of their running backs.
Dave Zastudil signed a two-year contract in January and will earn $1.5 million in 2014. The Cardinals' highest-paid running back? Ryan Williams. He'll make $1.05 million next season, a year after not being active for any of Arizona's 16 games. The Cardinals' top two returning running backs, Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor, will each make $495,000 next season. Recently acquired running back Jonathan Dwyer is scheduled to earn $795,000 in 2014.
At $1.02 million, kicker Jay Feely will make more than every running back except Williams.
The NFL is in the midst of another paradigm shift. It could be a fad or it could be here to stay. Good running backs will get paid but the rest will enter a league that devalues them for years to come.