5 Highest-Paid Running Backs in the NFL

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That’s Jamaal Charles, the excellent running back for the Kansas City Chiefs. Charles, who was scheduled to make at least $2.5 million at the start of this season in salary from the Chiefs (he could have made up to $3.6 million, but the $2.5 million was guaranteed), is not even close to making this list, and that made him sad. Or angry. Either way, Indian Jesus took a stand about his pay, sat out from training camp, and promptly struck a new deal with the franchise, one that will give him a pay bump to put him in the same pay grade as his peers.

Did he actually stay back from training camp in order to force the franchise’s hand on a better deal? If you take Charles’s word for it, the answer’s no. “I had no intention on holding out. … I just ran out of gas on the way to camp and my cell phone battery died. It was a long walk I tell ya.”

Charles’s new deal, a two-year extension, will pay him $18.1 million more than his previous contract, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who broke the story. All contract details courtesy of OverTheCap.com and Spotrac.com

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5. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens, $35 million

In addition to his offseason domestic violence incident (which was, frankly, given a disgustingly lax punishment from the NFL), Ray Rice, the fifth highest-paid running back in the NFL, looked for all the world like he’d lost “it” last season. Suffering a significant drop in yards per carry — from 4.4 to 3.1 — as well as failing to record a single passing touchdown for the first time since 2008, Rice, now 27, may have gone over the very real precipice when running backs go from amazing to retirement seemingly overnight.

Or it could’ve been an aberration. The Ravens, overall, played their 2013 season like they were suffering from a hangover after the Super Bowl, and quarterback Joe Flacco reverted back from his video game-esque God Mode from that year’s playoffs. They eventually finished eight-and-eight, which felt about right if you caught any of their games last season.

4. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers, $36.5 million

This seems like a lot of money, considering that Cam Newton is Carolina’s best running back (for those of you unfamiliar with Cam Newton, he’s the team’s quarterback, and arguably the best running QB since prime Michael Vick). Stewart, who only managed to play in six games last season after battling through knee and back injuries, most notably a torn MCL, is having his massive contract work as job security, since the Panthers would have nearly $20 million in dead space on their cap if they let him go.

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3. Arian Foster, Houston Texans, $43 million

Still shortlisted as one of the best running backs in the game, Arian Foster signed his contract — a five-year deal — in 2012, when the Texans were on the upswing and looked to become a dark horse in the AFC South. The team took a serious step back last season finishing 2-14, and Foster’s injury woes were one of the contributing factors to their sharp decline as he notched just two touchdowns (including rushing and passing). That said, it’s hard to say whether or not Foster’s cooked yet, since he’s healthy so far, and the Texans are planning on giving him an increased role in the passing game under new head coach Bill O’Brien.

2. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles, $45 million

The biggest beneficiary of Chip Kelly’s manic offense, LeSean McCoy played like he deserved even more than his massive contract, signed in 2012 when Andy Reid, and his mustache, were still calling the plays for Philly. That’s not the best part about LeSean “Shady” McCoy though — the best part is that while he jukes his teammates in practice, he apparently says (or said) his last name, McCoy, as he does it. Don’t just take our word from it, you can go straight to the source. Now watch that highlight video above and you’ll realize it is impossible to watch an Eagles game without saying “McCoy” to yourself, quietly, every time he does something awesome. You’re welcome.

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1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, $96 million

All Day is getting paid. After signing what was originally reported to be a $100 million deal back in 2011, the contract turned out to be ‘only’ $96 million. Which doesn’t seem like an unreasonable price for the best thing about the Minnesota Vikings. Peterson, who became the unattainable standard after coming back from an exploded knee to challenge for the NFL’s single season rushing record in 2012, is consistently one of the most exciting running backs in the league — especially in his tendency to run straight over players, rather than juke them like McCoy.

Unfortunately, the Vikings have been unable to field anything like a competitive team since they drafted Peterson back in 2007, making the playoffs only three times. Hopefully they’re able to bring AP further into the postseason before he hangs up his cleats.