It's payback time.
After all the years where the star running backs get all the attention and accolades, it's so nice to see the anonymous guys that do all the grunt work laughing all the way to the bank.
It's staggering, really, when you think about the way the football hierarchy has been upended for backs and linemen over the course of their careers.
It starts during youth football where the star running back is the one whose name is called over the loudspeaker by the announcer every time he takes the ball for another long gain. He also gets the chance to score all the touchdowns, while linemen are still young enough to naively think that maybe there's a chance they will get to be a skill guy that actually touches the ball someday.
Then you get to high school where the running back is the only guy you see on the local Friday night highlight shows breaking a long one. He's also usually the only player that gets interviewed after the game by the high school football reporter in your area. All that media coverage and attention doesn't hurt his status with the girls in school, either. Meanwhile, the linemen have at this point accepted that they are never going to get the ball or the glory and strive to embrace their role and the part that they play in making the running back look good.
Fast forward to college football. Star running backs are on the cover of magazines, in the thick of the Heisman race, and there are little kids wearing their jersey in the stands. The linemen, as usual, get none of that.
Even in the NFL, the running backs get all the attention from the fantasy football community and a percentage of the local adoration and commercials in the various markets.
You know what they don't get, though? Paid.
At least not like the big boys in the trenches who have toiled in relative obscurity for years, only to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel once free agency hits.
The devaluing of the running back position has been happening incrementally with every passing year, while the importance of offensive linemen has been increasing. If these two positions were stocks, running backs would be way down while the offensive line continues to skyrocket.
Did you ever think we'd live in a world where Matt Kalil gets over $11 million per year and a practical guarantee that exceeds $30 million, while Adrian Peterson is taking visits to teams like the New England Patriots seemingly as a favor to drum up interest? I know I didn't.
I mean, we're talking about one of the best running backs in the history of the NFL, who led the NFL in rushing as recently as 2015. And we're comparing him to a disappointing first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings that has been average at best at left tackle so far during his career. It's crazy.
Meanwhile, established starting running backs like Eddie Lacy in Seattle and Latavius Murray in Minnesota are signing one-year contracts for pennies on the dollar of what linemen like Riley Reiff (Vikings) and Russell Okung (Chargers) signed for.
In fairness, all three offensive linemen mentioned above are slated to play left tackle, which has long been a marquee position, but we're still not talking about perennial Pro Bowlers here.
And it's not just the left tackles that are cashing in for the offensive line fraternity. Guards are getting over $9 million per year, and right tackles like Mike Remmers are inking big deals. At the same time, consider that Jamaal Charles, one of the best running backs of our generation, is trying to generate some interest in his services.
Certainly, a poor draft for offensive linemen and a good one for running backs is yet another factor in the markets for both positions, but that alone doesn't explain the disparity in deals among these positions. At the current rate, you can get three solid starting running backs for the same price as one average offensive tackle. Incredible.
All of which is to say that it was all worth it. The hard work and lack of attention and public praise has finally paid off for the big boys that do most of the work and get very little credit. It's payback time and I'm loving every second of it.
Just not as much as I would be if I was actually -- you know -- participating in this gold rush of sorts.