The state of the NFL running backs market has been widely debated in recent weeks. Multiple notable running backs have failed to land long-term, lucrative contracts this offseason.
Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard and Josh Jacobs all remain under the franchise tag as training camp begins for most teams in just a few short days. Teams had until Monday to sign franchise-tagged players to long term contracts. Meanwhile, four-time Pro Bowler Dalvin Cook remains a free agent, and veteran ball carrier Kareem Hunt is still searching for a new team.
In the midst of the depressed market, NFL Players Association President JC Tretter decided to offer some interesting advice to the frustrated tail backs.
During a recent appearance on the “Ross Tucker Football Podcast,” Tretter seemed to suggest that running backs should claim they were less than 100 percent healthy in an effort to increase their leverage with teams.
Tretter stopped short of flat out recommending players actually fake injuries — although he did not seem to completely rule out the scenario.
“You need to try to create as much leverage as you possibly can,” Tretter said. “And that’s the tough thing with the franchise tag, or being restricted in movement, is it decreases your leverage, but then you have to find creative ways to build leverage elsewhere.
“I think we’ve seen issues — now, I don’t think anybody would say they were fake injuries, but we’ve seen players who didn’t want to be where they currently are, have injuries that made them unable to practice and play, but you’re not able to get fined, and you’re not able to be punished for not reporting. So there are issues like that. I don’t think I’m allowed to ever recommend that, at least publicly, but I think each player needs to find a way to build up leverage to try to get a fair deal. And that’s really what all these guys are looking for, is to be compensated fairly.”
Several players have been vocal about the general direction of the running back market.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has advocated for his fellow players to get long-term deals. He has also spoken out about his displeasure over his contract with his team.
Ekeler’s dispute with the Chargers seemed to reach its peak in March, when he was granted permission by the team to seek a trade.
However, the two sides came to a temporary resolution earlier this offseason, when the Chargers reportedly added $1.75 million in incentives to his deal for 2023.
It is unclear whether Tretter’s hypothetical advice would provide any benefit to players like Barkley, Pollard, or Jacobs. However, some running backs might to sit out training camp regardless of whether they are healthy enough to practice or not.