This offseason has been one in which the plight of running backs across the league has taken center stage. Chief among them is Las Vegas Raiders star Josh Jacobs who still has yet to sign his franchise tender and remains away from the team. Many current and former players have spoken up on the state of the position including Raiders legend Marcus Allen.
Previously Allen has discussed his sadness at running backs being undervalued as a whole, and that feeling has not changed. This offseason has seen Jacobs, Saquon Barkley and Tony Pollard all get franchise tagged, Dalvin Cook gets released, and Austin Ekeler demands a trade but fails to see one materialize and ultimately re-work his deal.
With the NFL as a whole seemingly against committing long-term to running backs, Allen again spoke his mind. The Raiders legend believes the league is basically colluding against the position, via Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
“I’m just going to say it,” Raiders legend Marcus Allen said. “It’s almost like collusion […] They decided the running back position is one where the productivity is only for a short period of time, and instead of looking at each and every one individually, they have decided as a group that they’re not going to pay them,” Allen said. “I can understand what (the running backs are) thinking and what they’re feeling, so hopefully things get resolved, because to me he’s the heart and soul of the team.”
Allen would continue on about the situation, believing that running backs are only being marginalized in terms of money despite the position still being extremely important to the success of teams overall:
“What is interesting is that it isn’t devalued, but when it comes to monetarily, they’re trying to do that. It’s a valuable position. Next to the quarterback, we’re the best friends they have on the field. I know most people think of wide receivers, but it’s still block and tackle. It’s still running the football, especially at the end of the year when it matters most because you don’t really get toward the Super Bowl or get in that conversation unless you can run the ball.”
Allen isn’t wrong in that teams still do rely on running backs, but it the roles have changed in how they are utilized, and there is evidence on both sides as to how important running the ball remains.
The Eagles, 49ers, Giants, Cowboys and Bills were all playoff teams who were top-10 in rushing, though three of those teams were heavily boosted by their quarterbacks also being running threats. Meanwhile, the Chiefs ranked 20th in the NFL in rushing and won the Super Bowl while the likes of the Vikings, Chargers, Bengals and Bucs ranked even lower and all made the playoffs as well.
What the resolution ultimately will be remains unclear, but the Raiders are at the forefront of this discussion as long as Josh Jacobs remains away from the team.