Carolina Panthers running back Miles Sanders spoke out about the position being underpaid, which was a good but moot point in the grand scheme of things.
One doesn't have to look far around the league to see how running back value is currently being perceived. Even the Carolina Panthers have gone along with the ongoing trend, shipping Christian McCaffrey's massive contract to the San Francisco 49ers for a draft haul that gave them enough disposal assets for their daring raid to No. 1 overall.
McCaffrey is carrying an $18.35 million dead-cap figure in 2023. But this short-term pain provides the Panthers with long-term stability without worrying about whether the All-Pro will succumb to the nagging injuries that blighted his final two seasons in Carolina.
Carolina Panthers RB Miles Sanders is far from happy
What was something of a surprise was the Panthers shelling out decent running back money on Miles Sanders in free agency. The Pro Bowler signed a four-year, $25.4 million deal that included a $5.9 million signing bonus and $13 million guaranteed, which could be a good deal if the former second-round selection becomes a true three-down backfield threat.
Sanders has made a good start to early offseason workouts and seems to have slotted in seamlessly alongside rookie quarterback Bryce Young. He was probably hoping for more money and maybe even a bigger commitment from the Philadelphia Eagles, but the NFL is a ruthless business and especially where running backs are concerned.
This is something the Penn State product brought up during a conversation on The Rich Eisen Show. Sanders was far from happy about the way running backs are being treated around the league via NFL.com and called for the subject to be discussed more given the position's continued importance.
"We're doing everything that we have to do as far as on the field and stuff like that. For people and GMs or owners to think that running backs are not as valued as much is a lie because you've got to see how everything plays out. You want to franchise tag and create a certain market for running backs just because you have this way of thinking that they only last three or four years. I think it's B.S., honestly. Almost every running back is underpaid right now. I don't know what it's gonna take. That's a topic that needs to be brought up a little more because it sucks to be a running back right now, honestly."- Miles Sanders via NFL.com
Sanders has a point. But when push comes to shove, it'll probably be moot and unlikely to change anything when it comes to NFL roster building.
The salary cap will continue to rise. So will quarterback contracts, which means that other position groups could suffer as a result.
Couple this with the premium edge rushers, offensive tackles, and wide receivers make, it might only get worse for running backs. Especially considering there is always a fresh batch of explosive, fresh talent emerging from the college ranks annually that could be equally as productive at a fraction of the cost.
The days of McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and others getting top-end dollars will be long gone soon. Running backs get paid less when their talents are greatest, so it's something league owners might look at one day and adjust the rookie pay scale accordingly.
That doesn't matter to Sanders, but he deserves credit for going to bat for his peers and highlighting this overlooked equation. As for the Panthers, they'll be hoping their big-name addition can use this as another source of motivation and make a lasting contribution in their first campaign under Frank Reich.