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Tag You’re (Not) It: Multiple Star Running Backs Facing Free Agency After Teams Reportedly Opt To Let Them Walk

The NFL might look a whole lot different next year.

A gaggle of star running backs will not be receiving franchise tags from their teams and will become free agents, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The $12 million franchise tag was apparently too high a price to pay for stars like Saquon Barkley, Austin Ekeler, Derrick Henry and Tony Pollard, who are all set to become free agents when the new league year starts in March, per Schefter.

While the decision to not tag the group of stars doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be back with their respective teams, it doesn’t bode well for the future of the position.

Running back was once the premier NFL position, outside of quarterback. NFL greats like Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith and Curtis Martin were indispensable pieces of their offenses.

Now, NFL teams are willing to let some generational talents like Barkley and Henry walk because they seem to believe they’ll be easy to replace.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – JANUARY 07: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants runs the ball while defended by Zach Cunningham #52 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half at MetLife Stadium on January 07, 2024 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Al Bello/Getty Images

And the truth is, they’re probably right. Talented running backs today are a dime a dozen. While Barkley and Ekeler have more value because they are viable passing options, every year they compete decreases their shelf lives and makes them much more susceptible to losing their job to a third-round back who makes a quarter of what they’re asking for. (RELATED: Please God, Do Not Let Saquon Barkley Go To The Cowboys)

Miami Dolphins running back Devon Achane is a perfect example of this. The Dolphins selected Achane in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, paying him a meager $1.6 million on the year. The kid performed as good as any of the top options on the market, rushing for 800 yards on 103 carries for an insane league-leading 7.4 yards per carry.

LANDOVER, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 03: De'Von Achane #28 of the Miami Dolphins carries the ball against the Washington Commanders during the first half at FedExField on December 03, 2023 in Landover, Maryland. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

LANDOVER, MARYLAND – DECEMBER 03: De’Von Achane #28 of the Miami Dolphins carries the ball against the Washington Commanders during the first half at FedExField on December 03, 2023 in Landover, Maryland. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

How can you justify spending $12 million on a running back when you can get a guy who’s younger, less banged up and cheaper who will last longer anyway?

Unfortunately, we may be seeing the death of the superstar running back, here. Outside of the rare exception like Christian McCaffrey, none of these guys are special enough to warrant a fat check.

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