The week of July 17 ended up becoming a turbulent time for running backs across the NFL as new deals were never given to three notable league stars. But one analyst’s take prompted a fierce reaction from past Alabama Crimson Tide backfield star Najee Harris — who took the side of his backfield colleagues including past ‘Bama star star Derrick Henry.
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller voiced his opinion on the state of the running back room on Monday, July 17 by giving out this outline:
By Miller’s words, he’s basically saying that running backs are only worth one franchise tag…instead of a longer term deal. Plus adding the element of drafting someone even younger to compete with that star RB down the road.
“King Henry,” however, first voiced his displeasure in this response to the analyst.
“At this point, just take the RB position out the game then. The ones that want to be great and work as hard as they can to give their all to an organization, just seems like it don’t even matter. I’m with every RB that’s fighting to get what they deserve,” Henry said.
Harris, the 2021 Pro Bowler now entering season three with the Pittsburgh Steelers, took the side of his fellow Tide RB by calling out the “joke” involving running backs like him deserving way less.
“I agree with my running back brothers around the NFL — history will show that you need running backs to win,” Harris stated. “We set the tone every game and run trough walls for our team and lead in many ways. This notion that we deserve less is a joke.”
What Led to Tweet Firestorm
Miller’s post came after not one, but three different running backs weren’t given new extensions: Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys and Josh Jacobs of the Las Vegas Raiders — the latter representing past ‘Bama lineage.
The trio were all up for new deals as they’ve entered the final years of their rookie contract. But all three teams were unable to reach a new deal.
Miller’s post came with a tone that teetered toward lessening the dire need of a running back. His post, though, did more than bring out Henry. Los Angeles Chargers versatile RB star Austin Ekeler was one of the other vocal responders who took the side of the backfield.
“This is the kind of trash that has artificially devalued one of the most important positions in the game. Everyone knows it’s tough to win without a top RB and yet they act like we are discardable widgets,” Ekeler shared to Miller. “I support any RB doing whatever it takes to get his bag.”
Indianapolis Colts star Jonathan Taylor was another who chimed in, but came with the attempt of revising Miller’s post.
Henry’s Current Situation
Meanwhile, the past Alabama star Henry is facing his own contract dilemma.
Per Spotrac, Henry is in the final year of his current deal and can become an unrestricted free agent for 2024. He’s due to make $10.5 million for his 2023 base salary.
Henry signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Tennessee Titans back in 2020 — which was fresh off his first career 2,000-yard season and winning the league’s rushing title. But now, Henry will be 30 once he becomes a UFA. He’ll be at the age where most NFL teams will look and believe he’s down to his last miles and will benefit more in a reserve/rotational role — a la past dominating running backs the league saw.
Henry himself was his own subject of trade rumblings including seeing his name attached to the Philadelphia Eagles courtesy of former NFL defensive lineman Akbar Gbajabiamila. The Ex-edge rusher turned media personality, however, believed he messed up a potential trade that could’ve happened between Henry and the NFC champs.
As for Harris, his current deal won’t be set to expire until the 2026 season. He’s due to have a base salary of $1.8 million for the 2023 season per Spotrac. He’s currently on a four-year, $13 million deal with the Steelers.