02 Oct 2009
by J.I. Halsell
Last week, we started off our weekly analysis of the biggest contracts by position with the most lucrative position in the sport: quarterback. This week, we examine the top ten starter contracts at the running back position.
Keeping in mind that this analysis is ranking only those players who are starters for their respective teams. It is interesting that the most lucrative contract at running back does not even belong to a starter. New Orleans running back Reggie Bush's 2006 rookie contract has an average per year value of $8.75 million; the player that Bush backs up, Pierre Thomas, ranks 32nd among starters, with an average per year value of $373,333 on a contract that he signed as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Illinois. Bush also leads all running backs with a guarantee of $26.25 million; slightly ahead of Oakland's Darren McFadden, who has a guarantee of $26.04 million. The Bush and McFadden contracts once again illustrate how lucrative contracts given to the top three picks of the draft are relative to those contracts paid to veterans.
In looking at the two marquee running back contracts signed this most recent offseason -- those signed by the Giants' Brandon Jacobs and Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew -- one will notice that both players' contracts expire before the player turns 30. It has been widely documented that there is a greater likelihood of diminished performance as running backs turn 30 and older. With this in mind, it appears that the Giants and Jaguars, by limiting the term of these contracts, are trying to refrain from over-compensating a player who has hit the proverbial running back wall.
In last week's analysis of quarterbacks, we brought attention to Drew Brees' ranking among quarterbacks (17) in average per year. Just as Brees is currently one of the most prolific passers in the game, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is one of the best, possibly the best, running backs in the league. Coincidentally, Peterson also ranks 17th in average per year, with a value of $3.71 million. Peterson's contract expires after the 2011 season (assuming there is a 2011 season, given the possibility of a lockout), and he, based his outstanding productivity early in his career, could be in line for an extension as soon as after the 2009 season. If Peterson were to receive an extension, he has clearly made a resounding argument for becoming the highest paid running back in the game. Based upon the current top ten starting running back contracts, Peterson could potentially expect an average per year deal in excess of $10 million per year and a guarantee per year in excess of $6 million per year. On a five year deal, using those numbers, Peterson could, conservatively, sign a $50 million extension with $30 million guaranteed.
Speaking of guaranteed money, the top three starting running back guarantees are (not including Bush's amount): McFadden, $26.04 million; the Rams' Steven Jackson, $20.5 million; and the Chiefs' Larry Johnson, $19 million. Maruice Jones-Drew's $4.36 million guarantee per year, however, leads all starting running backs.
Here are the top ten starting running back contracts in the league:
|Top Ten Starting Running Back Contracts (in millions of dollars)|
Next week, we'll analyze the top ten starter contracts at wide receiver.
Follow J.I. Halsell on Twitter: @SalaryCap101
16 comments, Last at 06 Oct 2009, 4:29pm by Bruce G.