This offseason, in a bit of news that didn’t make many waves, the Las Vegas Raiders declined the fifth-year option on running back Josh Jacobs. After all, $8 million for a running back in 2023 is a lot of money — especially one who has been banged up for much of his career (even if he has only missed six games).
And then….2022 happened.
After his monstrous performance against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12, Jacobs is averaging over 100 yards per game on the ground, plus another 30 through the air with nine total touchdowns to his name. In fact, he currently is the league leader in rushing yards (1,159), he’s tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns, and he’s also the league leader in total yards from scrimmage (1,484).
So did the Raiders make a mistake?
The easy answer is “yes” — Jacobs for 1 year and $8 million seems like a bargain — but now what? Like with any free agent, the Raiders have two options at their disposal: a new contract or the franchise tag.
For a guy like Jacobs, who turns 25 in February, a free agent contract will probably live somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 years and $50 million. As it stands, the Raiders are projected to have around $28 million in salary cap space — so practically, they’ve got the room to bring back Jacobs even with a sizable raise.
And yet…there might be an even better option out there: the franchise tag. According to Michael Ginnitti of Spotrac.com, the tag for running backs is projected to be around $9.5 million, which could give the Raiders options. Either they offer, and Jacobs accepts, or maybe it gives them a bit of leverage to offer Jacobs some more guaranteed money — but less than he would make as a true free agent.
The wrench in this equation is the fact that the Raiders used a fourth-round pick on rookie running back Zamir White, presumably to fill Jacobs’ shoes in 2023 and beyond for far less money. On paper, the move made perfect sense, given the value teams are placing on running backs these days — but Jacobs has crumpled up and shredded that paper with his play this season.
I mean, just imagine an offense with this version of Jacobs playing behind an upgraded offensive line and with a healthy Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow alongside Davante Adams. If I’m Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler, and I’m serious about my desire to win and win quickly, I’m not sure how you consider that possibility and go a different route.
For the Raiders, it seems like the best path forward is to pay Jacobs, use the balance of your remaining cap space on defense, and then split your draft capital (which figures to be substantial) between the defense and adding some reinforcements on the offensive line.
So yeah, the price has gone up — but it sure seems like Jacobs will be worth every penny.