Christian McCaffrey sounds off on NFL running back devaluation over time

CMC sounds off on NFL undervaluing RBs over the years originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The NFL’s relationship with running backs has been teetering over the years, and now, one 49ers running back is speaking up about it.

All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey believes the league has devalued the position and gave his best case as to why it deserves more respect.

“No one's asked me this question yet, but I do have opinions on it,” McCaffrey said on “The Rich Eisen Show.” “I think when you look back in history and look at what the running back position has meant to football, they touch the ball more than anybody. And I was a guy who liked Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, some of the best to ever do it, and these guys, they didn't just play for a long time, they played well for a long time, and I look at Derrick Henry as another example. Derrick Henry is older than I am and that guy's done nothing but produce.

“I look at what Saquon Barkley brings to the [New York] Giants, I look at what Josh Jacobs brings to the [Las Vegas] Raiders, all these backs around the league who have done so many amazing things for their team. They've been clutch, they carry the ball, they catch the ball into the backfield, they provide multiple threats, they create mismatches, they make defensive coordinators think, and I think there's a lot of value in that.

“And somewhere along the line, the running back position has been undervalued, in my opinion, for what they're asked to do. And I think there are a lot of guys that are scared to speak up about that for multiple reasons. I don't know when the value of a yard got diminished.”

The shelf life of a running back in the league is presumed to be age 30.

Not only does McCaffrey believe that's unfair, but he himself, at age 26, is aiming to prove otherwise.

McCaffrey is one of three players in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in one season, after he accomplished the rare feat with the Carolina Panthers in 2019.

With a full offseason of preparation under his belt now with the 49ers, though, and playing alongside a star-studded supporting cast, this could be just the beginning for McCaffrey -- not the end.

In addition to being undervalued, McCaffrey believes running backs are largely underpaid. The average salary for a running back is only higher than the average fullback, special teams, punter and long snapper, per Spotrac.

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While McCaffrey fully supports everyone getting their bag in their respective ways, he believes running backs deserve a little more coin for what they're asked to do on the field.

"I'm for everybody getting paid. I love when guys earn money and are able to feed their families and have life-changing, generational-changing money," he said. "It's such a special thing because we all work really hard. It's fun, it's a blessing, it really is. When I look at what receivers make around the league and then you look at what running backs make, we're at the bottom of the list.

"You got backs who have had 2,000-yard seasons, you've had backs who have had 750 - 800 yards receiving, and a lot of people use the injury argument, and I don't know if that's necessarily valid when you look at some of the receivers who have been hurt and still get big contracts. So I understand we touch the ball the most but, in my opinion, we create a lot of value in doing so as well.

"So there's a lot of arguments multiple ways. But I definitely think somewhere along the line, the franchise tag and what the market did to the running back position, I think they're definitely undervalued. And I think if you asked the running backs around the league, they would probably say the same thing."

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