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RBs aren’t invaluable so much as less valuable

By Danny O’Neil

Ashley Fox, Chris Johnson will find out
running backs lack value in today’s NFL

Chris Johnson was the benchmark just two years ago during Marshawn Lynch’s negotiations with the Seahawks.

Johnson wasn’t the industry standard at that point, he was the exception. The Titans running back, along with Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, were at the top of the food chain. Everyone else was a notch below. Lynch. The Bears’ Matt Forte. The Ravens’ Ray Rice in 2011.

Same was true for Houston’s Arian Foster and Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy more recently.

Peterson and Johnson remained the only two running backs whose contracts exceeded $10 million per year.

And now it’s just Peterson. Johnson is a free agent, soon to be released by Tennessee, and he’s walking into an open market where Knowshon Moreno was signed for $3.5 million after rushing for more than 1,000 yards in 2013. And then there’s Maurice Jones-Drew, who went from averaging $6 million on his deal with the Jaguars to $2.5 million on the three-year contract he just signed with the Raiders.

The decline in value can even be seen in the draft. Only one running back has been chosen among the first 20 picks of the past three drafts. That one guy? Trent Richardson, the No. 3 pick in 2012 who last year was traded from Cleveland for the Colts’ first-round pick this year.