Running backs continue to rake in huge contracts 

click to enlarge Full spectrum: Niners safety Dashon Goldson will make $6.2 million under the team’s franchise tag this season, but Ravens running back Ray Rice landed a five-year, $40 million deal. - US PRESSWIRE FILE PHOTO
  • US Presswire File Photo
  • Full spectrum: Niners safety Dashon Goldson will make $6.2 million under the team’s franchise tag this season, but Ravens running back Ray Rice landed a five-year, $40 million deal.

The surprise wasn’t that three franchised players — 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs and defensive end Cliff Avril of the Detroit Lions — failed to reach any kind of agreement before Monday’s deadline for signing multi-year deals.

Instead, it was that three players reached long-term agreements on the final day of negotiations. Arguably, most surprising was that the trio of long-term contracts included deals for halfbacks Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens (five years, $40 million) and the Chicago Bears’ Matt Forte (four years, $32 million). The other big contract on Monday went to Jacksonville kicker Josh Scobee, who suggested that his ability to kick off should merit a premium, and did, at $13.8 million over four years.

But the contracts for Forte and Rice accentuated that teams pay lip service to the notion that running backs are an endangered species, arguably a high-risk and short-shelf-life position that should not merit a prohibitive investment, but rarely adhere to the cautionary approach they so often publicly espouse.

It’s early and the structures of the Forte and Rice contracts will be critical, especially the “real” guarantees (the definition of which varies from one agent to the next) and the payouts in the first three seasons, in gauging overall value. But the contracts join those of running backs such as LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia), Arian Foster (Houston), Marshawn Lynch (Seattle), Chris Johnson (Tennessee), DeAngelo Williams (Carolina) and Adrian Peterson (Minnesota) in belying the notion that tailback is becoming a fungible position.

The multiple-year contracts, though, are the latest example that NFL teams usually say one thing and, come deadline time, make the expedient move.

A couple other franchise notes:
While it seemed the long-term contracts for Michael Griffin (Tennessee) and more recently for the Raiders’ Tyvon Branch might provide a blueprint for a multiple-year contract for Goldson, that didn’t happen. So Goldson will earn $6.2 million in 2012.

There were only two other franchise wide receivers, and it seemed fairly obvious from the outset that the Chiefs, who will now pay Bowe $9.4 million, and the New England Patriots ($9.4 million for Wes Welker) weren’t going to approximate Philadelphia’s long-term deal with DeSean Jackson. The Pats seemed well aware of Welker’s age (31) and the Chiefs of Bowe’s work ethic.

Of the 12 players who landed long-term contracts, five signed their deals since Friday, headed by quarterback Drew Brees’ five-year, $100 million contract. Proving once again that, as they always do, deadlines precipitate action in the NFL.

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Len Pasquarelli

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