Ground Index

RB Index, Week 17: Six running backs who've earned new contracts

Time is running out for players to raise their profile in the 2020 campaign, but some guys have already done the necessary work -- during the week and on Sundays -- to merit new money after this season. Here are six running backs who have earned new contracts, with five of them playing on deals that will expire this coming offseason:

Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones
Green Bay Packers · 26 years old

There isn't much Jones hasn't done for Green Bay over the last three seasons. Although his contributions were limited as a rookie in 2017, Jones has racked up nearly 4,000 scrimmage yards and 38 total touchdowns (32 rushing, six receiving) since 2018. If that doesn't scream contract extension, I don't know what does. The issue surrounding Jones' potential return to Green Bay is the fact that the Packers drafted A.J. Dillon in the second round last April -- and the rookie looked very impressive in Green Bay's Week 16 win over the Tennessee Titans. Dillon hadn't received more than five carries in a single game before last Sunday night's snowy affair at Lambeau Field, but he made the most of a huge opportunity, turning 21 totes into 124 yards (5.9 ypc) and two touchdowns. That's the type of production Jones has provided, so I could see the Packers passing on extending Jones if they think Dillon can do it for an entire regular-season slate.


Regardless of whether Jones is back in Green Bay or signs elsewhere in free agency, he will remain a starter -- and a darn good one at that -- in the NFL next season.

Nick Chubb
Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns · 25 years old

Chubb has been a premier running back in the league and a game-changer since arriving in Cleveland as an early-second-round pick in 2018, so the Browns have known this payday was coming for quite some time. Chubb has one more year left on his rookie contract, but his play merits an extension sooner rather than later. He's the perfect running back for Kevin Stefanski's system as a physical rusher who demands the attention of the defense, thus opening up Cleveland's play-action passing game. Chubb may not be the receiving threat Kareem Hunt is, but the reliable target still possesses the ability to be an option on checkdowns. As good as Chubb's been, I don't think he'll earn Christian McCaffrey money, but he should land in the $12 million to $13 million per-year range.

Mike Davis
Mike Davis
Carolina Panthers · 27 years old

With Christian McCaffrey sidelined the majority of this season due to injury, Davis showed he has the goods to be a starter. Davis took advantage of his opportunity each time out, providing the Panthers with a rock-solid rusher and viable threat in the passing game. He has 1,000 scrimmage yards for the first time in his six-year career. This should be enough for the 27-year-old to earn his biggest deal to date.

Jeff Wilson
Jeff Wilson
San Francisco 49ers · 25 years old

Three notable 49ers running backs (Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Wilson) have deals that expire this offseason, while Raheem Mostert remains under contract for one more year. This crew has been banged up throughout the season, but Wilson -- who will be a restricted free agent in the new year -- has proven to be extremely effective when his number's called. In his two starts (Week 7 vs. New England and Week 16 vs. Arizona), Wilson averaged 147.5 rush yards per game and scored four total TDs. The third-year running back has earned a second deal with the team and would give the 49ers a cheaper back with less wear on the tires than Coleman or McKinnon. He also pairs well with Mostert as a downhill, tackle-breaking back.

Chris Carson
Chris Carson
Seattle Seahawks · 26 years old

Carson has been a very productive player for the Seahawks when healthy, but staying available has been an issue. The fourth-year pro has averaged 4.6 yards per carry for his career and has been an integral part of the offense over the last three years, ultimately helping the Seahawks get to the postseason in each. Paying him could be a gamble because of his injury history, but you know what you get with him as an extremely physical running back who consistently moves the chains and alleviates pressure off the quarterback. The injuries will likely prevent him from getting paid like a top-10 running back, and I hope the Seahawks choose to keep him around because he's a great fit.

Gus Edwards
Gus Edwards
Baltimore Ravens · 25 years old

Edwards has been in a backup role since joining the Ravens three years ago and continues to prove his worth. The 6-foot-1, 238-pounder has routinely been a guy who punishes defenses with his downhill style. This season, he leads all Ravens running backs in carries (132) and rush yards (663) while hitting paydirt six times. Baltimore has some decisions to make at the position with Edwards slated to become a restricted free agent this offseason. I'd love to see him back in Baltimore's backfield -- Edwards deserves an extension from the team, and I ultimately think he'll get one -- but there's always the chance another organization gives him an offer that the Ravens don't match.

Top 10 Running Backs

Former NFL rushing leader and current NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 10 each week of the 2020 season. His rankings are based on this season's efforts alone. Here is MJD's list heading into Week 17.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week's rankings.

Rank
1
Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · Year 5

2020 stats: 15 games | 344 att | 1,777 rush yds | 5.2 ypc | 15 rush TDs | 19 rec | 114 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


It's a little crazy when you stop and consider that a 98-yard rushing performance is a pretty poor day for Henry, but that just proves the standard he's set. Henry is so far ahead of the pack when it comes to rushing yards -- leading Dalvin Cook by 220 yards -- that he could take Week 17 off and still win the rushing title.

Rank
2
2
Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara
New Orleans Saints · Year 4

2020 stats: 15 games | 187 att | 932 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 16 rush TDs | 83 rec | 756 rec yds | 5 rec TDs


The Vikings have had the Saints' number in two of the last three postseasons, from the "Minneapolis Miracle" to last year's overtime win. In Week 16, though, with the division on the line and a chance to end Minnesota's playoff chances, Kamara took matters into his own hands and dominated Mike Zimmer's defense. Fueled by the running back's record-tying six rushing touchdowns, the Saints were the ones enjoying victory while the Vikes were sent home.

Rank
3
1
Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook
Minnesota Vikings · Year 4

2020 stats: 14 games | 312 att | 1,557 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 16 rush TDs | 44 rec | 361 rec yds | 1 rec TD


The Vikings were eliminated from the postseason after losing to the Saints on Christmas Day. It's unfortunate we won't see Cook rumble in the postseason, but he had quite the impressive campaign, putting up a career-high 1,918 scrimmage yards (with more to come in the season finale).


UPDATE: Cook will miss Sunday's game in Detroit following the death of his father.

Rank
4
1
Nick Chubb
Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns · Year 3

2020 stats: 11 games | 176 att | 959 rush yds | 5.5 ypc | 11 rush TDs | 16 rec | 150 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


The Browns ranked third in the league with 152.6 rush yards per game in Weeks 1-15, so why the heck didn't they run the ball against the New York Jets? I get that they played from behind (although not by much) for most of the game, but they boast the best running back tandem in football. Chubb's averaging 5.5 yards per carry for the season, so giving him the ball would've been a lot more productive than having Baker Mayfield throw to the practice squad. Look for a change of game plan Sunday against the Steelers or the season could be kaput.

Rank
5
2
David Montgomery
David Montgomery
Chicago Bears · Year 2

2020 stats: 14 games | 225 att | 1,001 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 45 rec | 375 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


Behind a solid rushing performance in which Montgomery had 95 of the team's 128 yards on the ground, the Bears destroyed the Jaguars and jumped to the seventh seed in the NFC playoff picture. Montgomery has upped his production across the board in Year 2, racking up nearly 1,400 scrimmage yards and nine total touchdowns in the process.

Rank
6
Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones
Green Bay Packers · Year 4

2020 stats: 13 games | 190 att | 1,062 rush yds | 5.6 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 43 rec | 312 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


Jones ran all over Mike Vrabel's Tennessee defense -- logging 94 yards on 10 carries (a gaudy 9.4 yards per carry) -- to help the Packers tighten their grasp on the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. That type of efficiency is what I expected from Titans RB Derrick Henry on a snowy Sunday night, but it was Jones and A.J. Dillon who ran with ease.

Rank
7
1
Jonathan Taylor
Jonathan Taylor
Indianapolis Colts · Year 1

2020 stats: 14 games | 202 att | 916 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 35 rec | 298 rec yds | 1 rec TD


Taylor looked strong early on and his two rushing touchdowns helped Indy build a 17-point lead over Pittsburgh, but a defensive letdown in the second half ultimately cost the Colts the game and dropped them completely out of the AFC playoffs for the time being. I like the way the rookie is running right now. He's providing the offense with a tough, effective ground game -- something the Colts will need if they are ultimately able to snag a playoff bid.

Rank
8
1
Josh Jacobs
Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 2

2020 stats: 14 games | 258 att | 976 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 10 rush TDs | 33 rec | 238 rec yds | 0 rec TDs


Though Jacobs has the lowest yards-per-carry average on this list, he's on the verge of cracking the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. Plus, he's shown fine development in Year 2, reaching double-digit touchdowns on the ground and becoming more involved in the passing game. 

Rank
9
4
James Robinson
James Robinson
Jacksonville Jaguars · Year 1

2020 stats: 14 games | 240 att | 1,070 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 49 rec | 344 rec yds | 3 rec TDs


Well, Robinson's debut season has come to a premature end, as his ankle injury will keep him sidelined for Week 17. But this list just wouldn't be complete without the undrafted rookie on it. What a find by Jacksonville.

Rank
10
NR
Jeff Wilson
Jeff Wilson
San Francisco 49ers · Year 3

2020 stats: 11 games | 106 att | 524 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 10 rec | 121 rec yds | 2 rec TDs


San Francisco's upset win over Arizona wasn't perfect, but the performance Wilson had in his second start of the season was dang close. He had a career-best 204 scrimmage yards and added his eighth touchdown of the season. Wilson cracks this list for the first time due to his tremendous outing as the 49ers' RB1.

DROPPED OUT: Kareem Hunt, Browns (previously No. 10).

The Ground Index presented by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. Check out the weekly FedEx Ground NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote after Sunday Night Football.

Follow Maurice Jones-Drew on Twitter.

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