Once-prized RB position now more of an NFL afterthought

When the NFL changed all the rules to help the passing game in recent years, there was a law of unintended consequences for running backs.

They have been devalued in this era of the passing game but for exceptions like Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey. Most have short careers and are easily replaced. They aren’t happy about it, but the NFL no longer wants offenses to be built around the running game. No more three yards and a cloud of dust.

For example, the Vikings cut Dalvin Cook after four straight Pro Bowl seasons, and he is looking for a job.

Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs are refusing to sign their franchise tags. But what choice do they have but to play for the tag?

Then there is Jonathan Taylor of the Colts, who says he wants to be properly valued as he enters his fourth season. But he didn’t help his negotiating leverage last year. After leading the league in rushing in 2021, he missed six games last year and then underwent ankle surgery.

Even if he rebounds with a big season, the Colts can tag him next year.

His injury shows why running backs often have short careers. They take a pounding and often get injured. And he carried 926 times in three years at Wisconsin, so he arrived with wear on his tires. Former Packers general manager Andrew Brandt suggested running backs shouldn’t have to spend three years in college before entering the draft, but the NFL is not likely to make that exception.

The Colts are counting on him to help spark their offense by complementing rookie Anthony Richardson.

But no matter how well he plays, Taylor is likely to be tagged next year. It is the life of a running back these days.

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