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Forget Tailbacks: O-Linemen Get the Big Bucks

March 12th, 2017 · No Comments · Los Angeles Rams, NFL

Think of it as a sort of cosmic balancing of the scales.

The fat kids who played in the line in high school are more highly prized in the NFL than the fast guys who got all the attention.

At least, when those fast guys are running backs.

The first few days of the NFL’s free-agent signing period are over, and we have learned anew that teams are far more likely to spend large amounts of money on veteran tackles and guards than for veteran running backs.

Seven tackles have signed long-term deals worth $304.8 million, according to ESPN, and three guards have put pen to paper for $129 million.

Meanwhile, only one veteran running back has been signed, for an unknown price, Danny Woodhead, by the Baltimore Ravens. Since he is coming back from knee surgery he is not thought to have commanded O-line money.

Meanwhile, the oft-feted Adrian Peterson is still looking for a team.

Which must make guards and tackles chuckle, after years of anonymity.

OK, sure, many lineman are anonymous to fans, but teams are making up for the O-line being overlooked by giving its competent members lots of money and long careers.

NFL teams have realized that without a strong O-line, quarterbacks get killed, and QBs are the most important people on any team. Far harder to replace than running backs.

(One of the reasons the Los Angeles Rams have not quite given up on Jared Goff is their acknowledging that their offensive line was awful last season, allowing Goff to be sacked on more than 11 percent of his dropbacks. The Rams dutifully gave a big deal to a left tackle, Robert Whitworth, $36 million over three years, with $15m of it guaranteed.)

The other half of this fat guys/fast guys equation is the NFL’s awareness of how quickly running backs age — because they take probably a bigger beating than anyone on the field.

The numbers seem to show a running back peaks at 26, then fades quickly, losing a quarter of his peak value by age 29 and more than 41 percent by age 32.

It makes far more financial sense for NFL teams to draft any of the numerous backs to enter the league every year and pay them just the one time — their rookie contract.

Tackles and guards, meanwhile, can and do play well into their 30s, often with no apparent diminution of their skills.

So … linemen may still be obscure, but when they are making more money than top running backs, when they have long contracts and running backs do not … well, they can smile all the way to the bank.



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