By the numbers: How other NFL RB contracts relate to David Johnson

Jul 23, 2018, 3:00 PM

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs for a touchdown as Washington Redskins corne...

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs for a touchdown as Washington Redskins cornerback Kendall Fuller (38) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Cardinals All-Pro running back David Johnson appeared to have ended his holdout on Monday without news of a contract extension.

Johnson released a video on his Twitter account upon reporting to Cardinals training camp wearing a helmet with the hashtag #ImBack in the caption.

Looking at the current running back market, there is a great deal of variance on how much money top performers at the position earn. Due to the notoriously short shelf-life of running backs, it is understandable why Johnson would want a new contract and job security.

Considering his projected contributions as the Cardinals’ best weapon, it’s also easy to see why the team would want him inked long-term.

Here are some of the figures for running back contracts across the league to provide context for a potential extension for Johnson. Some may help shape negotiations for Johnson’s next contract:

$70 million

Multiple reports said that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell turned down a 5-year, $70 million dollar offer from the team. Bell — who is the highest paid running back in 2018-19 based on annual value — is playing this season under the franchise tag, which will pay him $14.5 million this season. Next year, if franchise-tagged again, Bell’s yearly salary will increase by 144 percent, upping his salary to $20.8 million. Bell is looked at as the benchmark who will set the market as the best back who like Johnson can both run and catch passes.


According to, there are two players currently playing on five-year contracts: LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills and Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons. Both contracts were worth more than $40 million with McCoy receiving $18 million in guaranteed money and Freeman receiving $22 million in guaranteed money. Might Johnson’s deal look similar?

$7.7 million

The yearly value of New York Giants rookie Saquon Barkley’s contract. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft will be the fourth highest paid running back this season behind Bell, McCoy and Freeman, but hasn’t yet played a down in the NFL. On Sunday, Barkley signed a four year, $31.2 million contract.


Eleven running backs will make cap hits of more than $4.5 million dollars this season in the NFL.

$1 million

The best running back values of late have come off rookie deals like Johnson’s. Kareem Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs led the NFL in rushing yards (1,327) and Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears finished tied for third in rushing touchdowns (nine) in 2017. Each player will earn less than $1 million this season while still playing on their rookie contracts. In fact, neither Hunt nor Howard will be the highest paid running back on their respective teams this season. Johnson, as a third-round pick, is currently playing on the last year of his rookie contract that will pay out $1.88 million.


Oh, how times have changed. Two of the highest paying running back contracts were signed in 2011 — both players later spent time with the Cardinals. Adrian Peterson signed a seven-year, $100 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings and Chris Johnson signed a six-year, $53.3 million deal with the Tennessee Titans. Both deals included more than $30 million guaranteed.

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By the numbers: How other NFL RB contracts relate to David Johnson