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Top 10 Highest Paid Running Backs of All-Time

Running backs are in short supply when you look at the priority list of NFL GMs. Even a decade ago, the value of running backs began waning as the league became more pass happy.

Today, front offices know you have to be able to run the ball but you don’t want to tie up too much of the salary cap with backs. You’ll notice the NFL betting sites kept the teams with good running backs at the top of the favorites lists.

  1. Ezekiel Elliott – $123,568,561

Up until the end of the 2021 season, Elliott had a total earning of $58,268,561. His future contacts have already set up millions of dollars to keep the player on the Cowboys, and they all add up to a whopping $123,568,561.

The lowest that Elliott has been paid is $1,025,186 for 2017. Although that amount is jaw-dropping to all of us, it was a shocking drop for the running back as his 2016 pay was $16,800,066. These drops usually coincide with guaranteed money being paid out and deferred money coming in. The Cowboys have never been to an NFC Title Game with Zeke.

  1. Adrian Peterson – $103,215,972

Despite Peterson’s total earnings being just $59,722 last year, his 15-season career has been financially impressive.

The most Peterson has ever earned in one season was $20,500,000. That glorious year was 2011. This payment is unusually inconsistent though, as before this big payout he received $3,640,000, and after he had a substantial drop to $8,250,000.

In 2016, Peterson was boasting pay of $12,001,848, but in 2017 that dramatically dropped to $705,882.

  1. Christian McCaffrey – $89,849,263

In his first 5 seasons, McCaffrey has earned a respectable $45,049,263, but his future contracts prove his greater potential. With deals through 2025, McCaffrey will earn $89,849,263 in total.

Like Peterson, McCaffery has had ups and downs in his pay. The most he received was $22,337,274 in 2020 and the least was $1,248,695 in 2018.

The biggest shock was the drop from 2017 to 2018, as before that low number McCaffrey was earning $11,144,128.

  1. Alvin Kamara – $80,013,272

So far in his career, Kamara has only earned $20,713,272. That’s less than McCaffrey’s max. However, looking at his future contracts, Kamara is expected to earn $80,013,272 by 2026.

The most Kamara has ever earnt is $15,833,000 in 2022, and seeing as his current total is just $4,880,272 more, you can tell his other payments have been much lower.

The lowest that Kamara has been paid is $635,000.

  1. Dalvin Cook – $69,099,503

Cook is another low earner if we only look at his current returns, but his future contracts are showing real potential.

So far he has received $23,317,150 for his 5 seasons, but by 2026 we are expecting Cook to bring home $69,099,503.

The most Cook has ever received in one year is $16,402,307 in 2020. And the lowest is $753,788 in 2018.

  1. Edgerrin James – $68,909,750

James played for 11 seasons in his time on the field. His final year was in 2009. Overall he earned $68,909,750.

The most he’s been paid for a season is $14,750,000 in 2006. The least James has been paid is $718,750 in his final year of 2009.

  1. Frank Gore – $63,296,439

At the moment Gore doesn’t have any future contracts financially lined up, which means his $63,296,439 total is from the player’s 16 seasons of play.

The most that Gore has ever been paid is $11,200,00 in 2007. The least that he has been paid is $350,000 just one year before in 2006.

Gore’s pay (like his play) has been rather consistent, ranging from $3,500,000 to $6,450,000 on average.

  1. Reggie Bush – $63,196,734

Despite never living up to his draft hype, Bush in his 11 seasons has racked up $63,196,734 in earnings.

The most he has ever been paid is $13,675,000, in 2007. The least he had ever been paid was $1,500,000 during his final season in 2016.

  1. LeSean McCoy – $63,074,623

McCoy is another running back that has completed his career. His final season was in 2020, making his total earnings $63,074,623. McCoy’s largest paying year was in 2015 when he brought home $16,000,000 exactly. While he was the cheapest in 2019, when just $250,000 was in his pockets.

McCoy’s pay jumped around in extremes. The largest extreme was from 2011 to 2012. In 2011, McCoy was paid $525,000, while in 2012, it jumped up to $9,227,500.

  1. Emmitt Smith – $61,275,000

Emmit was the highest-paid running back of the early 2000s. His final season was in 2004, and his biggest paying year was 1996 for $11,500,000. The only reason he’s so low on this list is because salaries weren’t nearly as high in his prime.

Summary

Some years everyone got a pay increase. 2007 and 2020 were the most common years to show financial love to the running backs (usually after new TV deals kicked in). While other years players were put back on the benches. Pay is never steady as a running back.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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