Free agent running backs Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott are considered instrumental in dictating the current running back market. The idea is that when these two dominoes fall, the bar will be set for payment at the position. Unsigned backs will then be paid based on how they stack up against both Cook and Elliott. Although Josh Jacobs isn’t a free agent, he does remain unsigned; this has led Raider Nation to believe Jacobs’ “value” will also be determined upon Cook and Elliott striking deals, with the Las Vegas Raiders reacting accordingly.
On Monday, both Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott agreed to terms with a team. Now in August, the free agency running back market has finally been set.
Cook, widely considered the best available at the position, inked a one-year deal with the New York Jets worth up to $8.6 million. Meanwhile, Elliott – coming off his worst year as a pro – joined the New England Patriots on a one-year, $6 million contract. Although Cook didn’t have worst season to date, he is fresh off of his least-productive campaign since 2018. The tidbit about these two coming off down-years may seem irrelevant right now, but I write that for a reason. For now, let’s leave it be and revisit it in due time.
While the signings of Cook and Elliott certainly impact free agents such as Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette, Jacobs’ value remains unaffected as far as the Raiders are concerned.
Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott strike deals; Josh Jacobs’ value is unaffected
There are multiple notable differences between the two running backs who struck deals on Monday, and Josh Jacobs. Among them, two points are the ones I find most relevant to hammer home: The distinction between a free agent and someone who has been franchise tagged but isn’t signing, and the down-year tidbit touched upon earlier.
Pointing out how someone who hasn’t signed a franchise tag isn’t a free agent may sound like nitpicking, but it isn’t – at all. A free agent is someone who hit the open market because, for whatever reason, their now-former team thought they could make life work without them. If they didn’t think that, they’d place the franchise tag on that player – enter: Josh Jacobs. To understand that is to understand the Raiders aren’t looking for a running back. Las Vegas isn’t one of the other 31 teams looking to bring on a running back such as Cook or Elliott if the price is right.
Josh Jacobs is the exact player general manager Dave Ziegler desires. He’s one-of-one to the Raiders, which is why he had the tag placed upon him in the first place.
Ziegler proved this to be true on Sunday when speaking to fans prior to the preseason opener kicking off. A fan told Ziegler he needs to give Jacobs $11-$12 million, and the Raiders’ general manager replied, ” Oh, I would have no problem with that.”
Why would he have a problem with it? While Cook and Elliott are coming off of their least-productive campaigns since Jacobs entered the league, the 25-year-old was more productive than any other player at the position in 2023.
Who was more productive on the ground last season than the Raiders’ 2019 first-rounder? Nobody
Jacobs led the league in first-downs by 25 (95) and rushing yards by 115 (1,653). Oh, and forced missed tackles by seven (90). At the season’s end, he stood as Pro Football Focus‘ highest-graded running back (91.9). He was also voted the highest-ranking running back by his peers on this year’s NFL Top 100 list (12th-overall).
Dalvin Cook was also on 2022’s Top 100 list. He came in at 91st-overall. This was a 60-rank drop from his 31st position the year prior. Elliott didn’t find himself on the list at all.
All-in-all, the contracts that Cook and Elliott signed are neither here nor there when it comes to Jacobs’ value. There’s a real kicker here, however. Jacobs’ value in a one-year window (the maximum length he can sign a contract for until 2024) is neither here nor there with what he’s after. Per the Raiders runner himself, he isn’t after the highest pay day possible but rather job security.
Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done about that now. In the best-case scenario, Jacobs and Ziegler are able to work out a one-year deal. After that, they can then get back to the drawing board for a multi-year extension once 2024 comes around.
*Top Photo: John Hefti/Associated Press