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Josh Jacobs free agency: Is Ezekiel Elliott a cautionary tale for Raiders?

Paying big money to running back has its risks

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders and Josh Jacobs both have a big decision to make in the coming weeks.

Jacobs, who led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,653 yards in 2022, is an unrestricted free agent because the team didn’t exercise its fifth-year option on him.

There are three options for the Raiders before free agency start in March:

  • They can give Jacobs a contract extension.
  • They can give him the franchise or transition tag (the window opened Tuesday and the Raiders have until March 8 to make the decision). The running back franchise tag is just over $10 million.
  • They can allow him to hit the open market.

Jacobs, the No. 24 overall draft pick in 2019, has stated that he wants remain in Las Vegas. He said the deal would have to make sense for him. He recently reiterated that line of thinking in a tweet:

Perhaps the Raiders aren’t willing to give Jacobs what he feels he’s worth. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Jacobs’ market isn’t quite what he hopes it will be. The running back free agent market is saturated with talent this year and often running backs don’t get paid because their career lifespan is shorter than other, more premium positions.

Pro Football Focus listed Jacobs as one of the five players teams should be wary of signing in free agency. Even though he just turned 25, Jacobs had a big work load in 2022 and he had durability issues earlier in his career.

Whether the Raiders give Jacobs a big deal or not, will likely come down to whether they feel like he can be productive through the life of a long-term contract. Teams have been burned by paying running back big in the past and the Dallas Cowboys are currently dealing with the effect of a running back in decline with big money still on the books.

Just before his fourth NFL season, in 2019, Elliott signed a six-year, $90 million deal with more than $50 million in guaranteed money. Elliott rushed for, at least, 1,357 yards in three of his first four NFL seasons. yet, his production has slipped the past three season. His highest rushing yardage total in that span was 1,002 yards and he had a career low 876 yards with a 3.8 per carry average. in 2022.

There is heavy speculation Elliott, 27, could be cut in Dallas this offseason.

Every player is different, but there is no doubt, the Raiders are weighing all of these factors as they plan how to proceed with Jacobs this offseason.