NFL RB market: What eight backs can tell us about 2024 offseason

While it might feel like a lifetime ago, it has been only a few months since the NFL was engaged in a referendum on the value of running backs. While the discussion stretched to rookie first-round picks such as Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs and veteran stars including Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey, the primary conversation surrounded eight backs, all of whom were looking for new contracts around the same time.

At the halfway point of the season, now seems like a good time to check in on those backs and update the conversation we were having about them during the offseason. What have they done after getting back in the lineup? Are they living up to expectations? And what does their performance tell us about what happens next offseason?

I'll go back by back, starting with the two players who were hoping to turn their franchise tags into long-term contracts.

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Saquon Barkley | Dalvin Cook
Austin Ekeler | Ezekiel Elliott
Leonard Fournette | Kareem Hunt
Josh Jacobs | Jonathan Taylor
What could the 2024 market look like?

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Contract situation: Playing on the one-year franchise tag ($10.1 million)

Forgive Barkley if he needs a rest. The past two weeks have been exhausting. With Tyrod Taylor and Daniel Jones both getting injured in consecutive weeks, the Giants have been forced to turn to third-string quarterback Tommy DeVito. Barkley has been called into duty for 58 touches over that two-week span, including 36 carries in the overtime loss to the Jets in Week 8.

This has been a wildly disappointing season for the 2-7 Giants, and Barkley hasn't been immune to those issues. He has averaged 4.0 yards per carry, down from 4.4 per attempt a year ago. He also missed three games with a high ankle sprain, the second time he has battled that injury in the NFL. The 2022 season was only his second full campaign across his six pro seasons.