To pay a running back, or not to pay a running back. That is the question. This off-season has reignited the debate over running back salaries in the NFL because of contract disputes with Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs, with the latter not reporting to training camp after failing to sign a long-term deal after receiving the franchise tag. Although the position has been devalued, a select group of running backs still earn over $10 million annually. Below, we explore the top-10 highest-paid running backs in the NFL for 2023.
Top-10 Highest-Paid NFL Running Backs In 2023
Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers has the highest average annual value (AAV) of any running back in 2023 with $16.01 million, followed by Alvin Kamara ($15 million) of the New Orleans Saints and Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans ($12.5 million).
However, McCaffrey is not the highest-paid running back in total cash salary for 2023. That distinction belongs to Bijan Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons.
Because he was drafted No. 8 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, Robinson will receive the highest total cash salary of any running back in 2023 with $13.72 million.
View the entire list below.
Top-10 Highest-Paid NFL Running Backs In 2023 (Total Cash Salary)
- Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons — $13.72 million
- Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers— $12 million
- Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints / Saquon Barkley, New York Giants — $11 million
- Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers — $10.96 million
- Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns — $10.85 million
- Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions — $10.73 million
- Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans — $10.5 million
- Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys / Josh Jacobs*, Las Vegas Raiders — $10.09 million
- James Conner, Arizona Cardinals — $8.44 million
- Miles Sanders, Carolina Panthers — $6.98 million
Rankings are based on total cash salary in 2023 via Spotrac.
*Jacobs has not signed their franchise tenders.
10. Miles Sanders, Carolina Panthers — $6.98 Million
After spending his first four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Miles Sanders signed a four-year, $25.4 million contract with the Carolina Panthers this offseason. The contract includes a $5.9 million signing bonus and $13 million guaranteed.
During his first season in 2019, Sanders set Eagles’ rookie records for most rushing yards (818), most all-purpose yards (1,641), and most yards from scrimmage (1,327).
Sanders is coming off a career year with the Eagles in 2022, rushing for 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Sanders enters a Carolina running back room that features Chuba Hubbard, Raheem Blackshear, and Spencer Brown.
After spending four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, James Conner signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals ahead of the 2021 season.
In 15 games, Conner rushed for 752 yards and a career-high 15 touchdowns with the Cardinals.
After the breakout 2021 campaign, Conner signed a three-year extension with the Cardinals during the 2022 offseason. The contract was a three-year, $21 million contract, with a $6 million signing bonus and $13.5 million guaranteed.
8. Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys / Josh Jacobs*, Las Vegas Raiders — $10.09 Million
Dallas’ Tony Pollard, New York’s Saquon Barkley, and Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs received the franchise tag from their respective teams during the 2023 offseason.
As of July 24, Pollard is the only one of the three to sign the one-year franchise tender worth $10.09 million. If signed, that number is fully-guaranteed for the 2023 season.
Jacobs will not report for the start of training camp. It remains unclear when he will sign the franchise tenders.
After primarily serving as the backup for the last four seasons, Pollard becomes the starting running back after the departure of Ezekiel Elliott.
As an integral component in the Raiders’ offense, Jacobs and Barkley ranked first (1,653) in rushing yards for the 2022 season.
He may not be the highest-paid running back in the league, but Derrick Henry is arguably the most important running back to an NFL team.
In 2019, Derrick Henry became the best running back in the NFL following a season in which he carried the ball 303 times for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns.
At the beginning of the 2020 offseason, the Titans placed the franchise tag on Henry. After months of deliberation, the Titans and Henry finally agreed to a long-term four-year, $50 million extension, including a $12 million signing bonus and $25.5 million guaranteed.
Henry followed his 2019 season with a historic 2020 campaign, leading the league in rushing attempts (378), yards (2,027), and touchdowns (17).
6. Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions — $10.73 Million
Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft.
On July 17, Gibbs signed a four-year, $17.84 million contract, including a $9.98 million signing bonus and $17.84 guaranteed. The contract also includes a fifth-year option.
After spending two seasons at Georgia Tech, Gibbs transferred to Alabama ahead of the 2022 season.
As Alabama’s primary running back, Gibbs rushed for 926 yards and seven touchdowns. The versatility back also caught 44 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns.
5. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns — $10.85 Million
After three productive seasons, Chubb signed a three-year, $36.6 million extension with the Cleveland Browns on July 31, 2021, including a $12 million signing bonus and $20 million guaranteed.
According to a survey by ESPN, Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns was named the NFL’s best running back heading into the 2023 season.
Chubb has rushed for over 1,000 yards in his last four seasons, including a career-best 1,525 yards in 2022. Chubb has averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry each of the last five seasons.
Overall, Chubb is as consistent as they come for the running back position, rushing for 6,341 yards and 48 touchdowns in five seasons.
Following two excellent seasons as the primary running back, Aaron Jones and the Green Bay Packers agreed to a four-year, $48 million contract in March 2021, including a $13 million signing bonus and $13 million guaranteed.
Despite the belief that A.J. Dillion would eventually supplant Jones as the starter, that has not happened yet because of Jones’s production on the field. Jones rushed for a career-best 1,121 rushing yards in 2022.
Jones was also excellent out of the backfield that same season, catching 59 passes for 395 yards and five touchdowns.
This past April, Jones agreed to restructure his deal, which lowered his 2023 salary from $16 million to nearly $11 million.
After three-straight seasons of more than 1,300 all-purpose yards, Alvin Kamara and the New Orleans Saints agreed to a five-year, $75 million contract one day before the 2020 season opener. The contract included a $15 million signing bonus and $33.83 million guaranteed.
Since signing the contract, the Saints have converted Kamara’s salary and roster bonuses into signing bonuses multiple times.
In the last three seasons, Kamara has accumulated 2,727 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. As a receiver, Kamara has caught 187 passes for 1,685 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
Barkley, who was upset after failing to sign a long-term deal with the Giants after being franchise tagged, agreed to a new one-year deal before the start of training camp.
Barkley will receive the same amount of guaranteed money as the franchise tender ($10.09 million). However, the new contract includes a $2 million signing bonus and 900,000 in incentives, which could result in Barkley earning $11 million.
After a historic 2019 season where he became the third player with 1,000 rushing and receiving yards, Christian McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64.06 contract extension with the Carolina Panthers on April 16, 2020.
With an AAV of $16 million, McCaffrey became the highest-paid running back in the NFL.
On October 20, 2022, McCaffrey was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for four draft picks: a second, third, and fourth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and a fifth-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
With the Panthers and 49ers in 2022, McCaffrey combined rushed for 1,139 yards and eight touchdowns to go along with 108 catches for 741 yards and five touchdowns.
1. Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons — $13.72 Million
Bijan Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons comes in at the top spot for the top-10 highest-paid running backs in terms of total cash salary for 2023.
The Falcons selected Robinson with the eighth pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
On May 12, 2023, Robinson signed a four-year, $21.96 million fully-guaranteed contract, including a $12.97 signing bonus.
In three seasons at the University of Texas, Robinson rushed for 3,410 yards and 33 touchdowns on 539 carries. As a receiver, Robinson caught 60 passes for 805 yards and eight touchdowns.
Robinson was a unanimous All-American and Doak Walker Award winner in 2022.
Credit to https://thesportsdaily.com/