A fixture in the NFL for 14 seasons who plans on running strong for plenty more before heading to Canton, Adrian Peterson's career has seen franchises' approach and outlook on running backs change abundantly since he was selected seventh overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2007.
The 35-year-old former NFL Most Valuable Player believes quite frankly that the trend of running backs' contracts in today's NFL is disrespectful to the guys often carrying the load.
"It's disrespectful to be honest with you," Peterson told TMZ. "It really is."
Examples are abundant as Peterson is set to make $2.25 million in the second and last year of his current deal with the Redskins, who were led in rushing by Peterson's 898 yards a season ago.
Derrick Henry put the Titans upon his shoulders and carried them to a pair of huge upsets in the playoffs, but he got the franchise tag rather than a long-term deal -- though quarterback Ryan Tannehill received said long-term contract after just one season in Tennessee. Todd Gurley signed a lucrative deal with the Rams in 2018 and was released from that deal this offseason. Gurley's now with the Falcons, whose former lead back Devonta Freeman is still searching for the right team fit and the right contract. Dalvin Cook, who plays for Peterson's former squad in Minnesota, is looking for a lucrative deal, but the argument exists against forking over long-term deals to backs. Per NFL Research, among the 10 running backs with the highest salary cap number in 2019, only two were on teams who made the playoffs -- the Texans' Lamar Miller and the 49ers' Jerick McKinnon -- and each of them missed the season with injuries.
More often than not in today's NFL, running backs are no longer the centerpiece of offenses, but crucial cogs, or at least often viewed in that capacity. Committees have largely replaced the workhorse back who gobbles up 20-plus carries per game.
Peterson believes the pay structure could be in for a change, though, with a mix of old and young as the catalyst.
"I think the change is going to come," he said. "Me and Frank Gore continue to show guys, 'Hey, we are valuable. We can have 10, 14-year careers as well, so value us as well like you would value a quarterback, you know?'"
Twenty-four-year-old Panthers dynamo Christian McCaffrey signed a blockbuster four-year, $64 million deal with Carolina this offseason. It came an offseason after the Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott inked a mega deal.
"This young core of backs are really changing the game for the better," Peterson said. "I feel like you're going to continue to get guys like that, that's going to help raise the value of the running back position."