The NFL is a sport that has experienced a plethora of changes over the last decade or so. However, it still remains the most popular sport in the United States of America. The most noticeable change is the way the running back position is viewed currently. It’s easy to see that less than ¼ of the NFL teams in the league rely on a primary running back.
Is A Running Back Headache Really Worth It To The Cardinals?
The league has changed to a passing league so the value of the running back, for the most part, has diminished. In order for a team to really want to commit to that position, the player has to be an exceptional talent. The situation for the Arizona Cardinals is one that is a little more complex.
Something Special Is There
Everyone with eyes can watch David Johnson play and know that he is an extremely talented player. If someone were to look at just the stats on a per game basis they would not argue it.
In 2015, he showed that he was not just a rookie running back from a small school with good size and speed, he let the NFL and its fans see for themselves. He rushed for 581 yds, with eight TDs, and 457 yards receiving and another 4 TDs, in just five games started. He also added a kick return for a TD. That is over 10 touchdowns in a rookie season that he started in less than half the games, which is not an easy task at the professional level. Now that the secret was out could he still be that productive? Anyone that asked that question didn’t have to wait long to get an answer.
A Star Is Born
The following season Johnson had over 2,000 all-purpose yards and over 15 TDs. Making things happen was an understatement. Who knew that in his sophomore season, he would already be making history. He had future star written all over him. The Arizona Cardinals made out like bandits in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Entering his third season was one that everyone was counting on him to break his records from the previous year. Then a dislocated wrist happened in the season opener and he didn’t play another down. Now the Cardinals are in a situation where he is holding out for a new contract. It seems like they are really taking their time with making this deal happen.
Here are some running backs in the league that have been pretty productive, and yet their teams did not feel like they were worth committing to long-term:
Carlos Hyde, Isaiah Crowell, Alfred Morris, and even Lamar Miller didn’t get a substantial offer from the Miami Dolphins during his productive tenure. There was still a good market for him and he signed with the Houston Texans on a 4-year, $26 million contract.
Running Backs Can Still Get Paid
Then you have a player that has a similar skill set to Johnson in Devonta Freeman who signed a 5-year 41,000,000 contract. That hefty extension was signed while being on a team with an above average QB, and a top 3 WR in Julio Jones. David Johnson is a far more dynamic player that contributes even more in the passing game and can light it up as a returner.
The truth is that the Arizona Cardinals are a team that has a lot of question marks offensively. Besides Johnson, they have been relying on a future Hall of Famer that can hang his cleats up any day (Larry Fitzgerald). They really don’t have any other known commodities on their current offense, aside from a hopeful rookie in Christian Kirk. Fitzgerald has continued to be an amazing player with three straight 1,000-yard seasons, but when Johnson was healthy in 2016, he was second in receiving yards. He has averaged more than 30 receptions when healthy. Just basing things off of what is known, besides Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, there isn’t much. The only other productive player during Johnson’s career was John (Smokey) Brown in 2015. He had 1,000 yards receiving but he is no longer part of the team.
While the value of the running back position is not what it once was, David Johnson is more than that. He is a true playmaker and that is something that is hard to find. With the team currently trying to figure out its QB position, they need as much stability on the offense as possible. Making your youngest playmaker happy would be a great start. The Arizona Cardinals staff needs to self-medicate themselves from a headache and pay the man.