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Analytical Approval: Cardinals Have Lowest-Priced Running Backs In NFL

GM Steve Keim focused on other positions during first waves of free agency

Running back Chase Edmonds catches a touchdown against the Seahawks in Seattle.
RB Chase Edmonds is the highest-priced running back on the roster at just north of $1 million.

The Cardinals had enough cap room to chase a premium free agent running back this offseason, but instead eschewed the position completely through the first few weeks of the league year.

It is a departure from the past three seasons, when they had big money allocated to David Johnson and Kenyan Drake.

Those in the analytical community have long held that running backs are rarely worth big-money deals for several reasons, including: the injury risk at the position, the healthy supply of capable fill-ins and the reliance on blockers to perform.

The Cardinals could be an interesting case study in 2021 if they go into the season with Chase Edmonds as their lead back and only low-priced options behind him. The team is currently lowest in the NFL in running back spending, both in total cap hit ($3.8 million) and average per player ($819,693).

Each team's situation is unique, and the Cardinals surely would have been more urgent in free agency if Edmonds didn't show as much promise as he did in 2020. But now the fourth-year running back – who is scheduled to have a cap hit of $1.03 million this season – is in line for a big role, and GM Steve Keim seems content to add only team-friendly deals to the position.

If Edmonds shines, the debate will be renewed, because he is on the last year of his rookie contract and is currently eligible for an extension. But for now, the Cardinals have chosen to stock up on places like the pass-rush and the offensive line while relying on lower-cost options at running back.

Table inside Article
Running Back2021 Cap Hit
Chase Edmonds$1.03M
Eno Benjamin$805,678
Jonathan Ward$780,000
Khalfani Muhammad$660,000