The NFL might be a quarterback league in 2018, but running backs have been getting paid lately.
Todd Gurley has agreed to a new deal with the Los Angeles Rams, making him the new highest-paid running back in the NFL. Gurley’s new deal is worth $60 million and has $45 million in guarantees, the most guaranteed money ever for a running back.
This comes days after the Giants finally signed rookie Saquon Barkley, whose $31 million in guaranteed money is now third-all time behind Gurley’s new deal and Adrian Peterson’s $36 million from 2011. The only difference is that unlike Peterson and Gurley, Barkley has yet to play a down in the NFL.
It’s no secret that running backs earn less than kickers and punters on average. But there are exceptions at the position, and there are still a handful of elite backs in the NFL.
With Gurley’s new deal in mind, let’s look at the top five earners for this season. Obviously Gurley has the new top contract, but it might surprise you who will walk away with the most cash from 2017-2018.
5. Jerrick McKinnon ($12.7 Million)
McKinnon was the splash signing in San Francisco this offseason, ditching Minnesota for the Bay Area and a four-year deal worth $30 million. He stepped up for the Vikings after the loss of Dalvin Cook, becoming the primary pass-catching back for a team that went 13-3 and won the NFC North. In the Vikings’ playoff loss to Philadelphia, McKinnon racked up 11 catches for 86 yards. The biggest issue with McKinnon is the workload, as he’s never finished a season with 200 carries or 1,000 scrimmage yards.
4. Devonta Freeman ($18 Million)
The Falcons extended Freeman in 2017 with a five-year deal that, at the time, made him the highest paid running back in the league. The deal includes $22 million and guarantees and came with a signing bonus worth $15 million. Freeman missed two games with a concussion in 2017, and ended up posting his lowest career totals since 2014. Freeman got the big payday over backfield companion Tevin Coleman, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
3. LeSean McCoy ($14 Million)
After making $16 million in his first three seasons in Buffalo, McCoy’s take dips a bit entering the back end of his deal. He signed a four-year deal worth $40 million in March of 2015, a deal that included $26.5 million in guaranteed money. When Bills coach Sean McDermott entered his first season last year, he acknowledged that LeSean McCoy would be critical to any Buffalo success. To help motivate McCoy, the Bills added nearly $3 million in extra incentives to his contract. McCoy finished the season with over 1,100 yards on 287 carries, and played a full 16 games for the first time since 2014.
2. Leonard Fournette ($20 Million)
Fournette makes this list because of a giant bonus earned this season. His rookie deal is fully guaranteed, meaning he’ll earn all of his $27 million. His base salary this year is just under 1.8 million this year, but it will double over the next two seasons. Fournette immediately made an impact on the Jaguars, helping them finish the regular season 10-6 and appearing in the AFC Championship. He finished his rookie season eighth in rushing yards with 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns.
1. LeVeon Bell ($26.6 Million)
Despite his ongoing negotiations, Bell remains the highest-paid running back in the NFL this season. He clears Fournette by over six million dollars, and will still be holding out when veterans report to Steelers training camp. Bell and the Steelers could not work out a new deal in the offseason, and the Steelers gave Bell the franchise tag. Bell still doesn’t have a contract past his rookie deal, but the franchise tag has proved lucrative for the All-Pro rusher. Bell has made more than any running back over the league over the last two seasons, and will sign a massive deal with a massive signing bonus next season. The only question left is whether he signs the deal in Pittsburgh or somewhere else.
Source: Heavy Sports