LATROBE, Pa. -- A day after New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley agreed to sign an adjusted franchise tender to end a stalemate with the team, Pittsburgh Steelers back Najee Harris expressed frustration with the current valuation of the position in the NFL.
"They ask me alone -- 'The game's going to rely on you, you need to do this for the team, you got to do this right here. Hey, it's time to close out the game. Hey, we need to lean on you right now,'" Harris said Wednesday. "And it happens a lot of places like Cleveland, Tennessee, even with the Niners; there's numerous teams where this happens at.
"... Only time when they choose to say that [the position] is devalued is when it's time to pay the running back. ... It's not devalued at all. They just don't want to pay a running back."
With incentives, Barkley's deal can have a total valuation of $11.1 million -- about a million more than the position's 2023 franchise tag value of $10.091 million.
"Saquon accumulated for almost 30% of the offense," said Harris, who emphasized repeatedly he was speaking on behalf of all NFL running backs and not voicing gripes with the Steelers' organization. "Why can't you look at that and say, 'OK, well he said he's not trying to break the market or set the market, but he's trying to get compensated of what he thinks is fair ... I know that they know themselves, that ain't fair what he's getting. He wanted a long contract to know his security there. Right now, he doesn't have no security. They're just going to probably utilize him the same way. And if something happens to him again, they're going to probably look somewhere else.
"It's like, man, what is the security that we have? We don't have no security right now. You guys are using us to accomplish what you guys want. And then when it's time for us to re-up or ask for something that we think is right, you guys just turn the cheek and say, 'Well, you have wear and tear.'"
Harris was part of a recent Zoom meeting with some of the league's top running backs, and he said the group has also talked to the NFLPA about possible solutions to get running backs more money. One thing they talked about, Harris said, is not franchise-tagging players according to position.
'For them to say that the running back position, you're slotted at this much money, I don't think that that's right because of what we're asked to do," said Harris, who declined to talk about his upcoming fifth-year option decision. "There's a lot of running backs who's doing receiving. There's a lot of running backs doing blocking and all that stuff. For you to just say running back and that's our market, and if it doesn't hit that, then it goes down lower. That's not right. They need to change that."