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NFL’s Darren Waller on Running Back Situation: ‘Nobody Has The Answer’

  • “Front offices have to take that into concern,” Giants tight end Darren Waller says of running backs’ injury risk.
  • Running back holdouts this offseason have included Saquan Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Jonathan Taylor as the position has been devalued.
Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller sees "truth in both sides" of running back contract drama.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

NFL star tight end Darren Waller believes “there’s truths in both sides” regarding the ongoing rifts between running backs and their teams due to the depleted market for the position.

Waller sees the situation from a unique perspective, given the Pro Bowl running backs he’s counted as teammates. His current New York Giants teammate Saquan Barkley threatened to sit out the season before he signed a one-year, $11 million deal, while his former Raiders teammate Josh Jacobs is holding out. Both were unhappy with one-year $10.1 million franchise tags.

“You look at that running back situation; there’s truth in both sides. Because running backs take a beating. Me being around Josh Jacobs since 2019, that dude runs hard, and it takes a toll on your body, just running like that,” Waller told Front Office Sports. “Front offices have to take that into concern because if you put that much value into that player and they might not be there because they’re taking a beating, it puts them in a tough bind.”

Jacobs was the NFL’s leading rusher last season but has failed to reach a long-term contract with the Raiders. Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor also requested a trade earlier this offseason amidst a contract dispute. 

“But at the same time, you’re not just gonna go out and find a Saquon Barkley anywhere. That’s a very rare talent. So that has to also be taken into account too. You look at both of those truths, what’s the middle ground?” Waller said. “I don’t have an answer. Apparently, nobody has the answer right now to have both sides feel content and feel like it works.”

None of the NFL’s top 10 rushing leaders from 2016 are currently on an NFL roster. Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen is concerned about the position’s monetary value drop among NFL front offices. 

“It’s almost like collusion,” Allen told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “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.” 

Waller, a 2020 Pro Bowler, has been sober for six years after battling a drug addiction since he was a teenager. He co-hosts his mental health-focused podcast “Comeback Stories,” produced by Michael Smith’s Inflection Network and distributed by iHeartMedia. 

Waller mentions himself, Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Mark Andrews as tight ends that “young guys could model their game after and hopefully take the market for tight ends to a new level.” The three-year, $51 million contract Waller signed with the Raiders last year made him the league’s highest-paid tight end by annual salary ($17M) — which surpasses all current running back contracts but is less than the top-15 wide receiver salaries

“I feel like it’s only a matter of time where the market for us [tight ends] continues to grow. I’m grateful to be able to have the deal that I’ve gotten,” Waller said. “Because what we are asked to do is the most versatile skill set of anybody on the field and should be taken into account.” 

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