Even after Saquon Barkley deal, Falcons' Bijan Robinson has the highest 2023 salary

The Atlanta Falcons drafted Bijan Robinson with the eighth-overall pick and immediately made him the highest-paid running back when it comes to 2023 salary. This still stands even after the Giants gave Saquon Barkley a new contract.
NFLPA Rookie Premiere Portrait Session
NFLPA Rookie Premiere Portrait Session / Michael Owens/GettyImages

The running back position has been a hot topic in the NFL recently and for good reason. While it strangely took this long for everyone to realize and talk about it, running backs are severely underpaid and nothing says that more than the fact that Atlanta Falcons' rookie Bijan Robinson will earn more cash than any other player at the position in 2023—even after the Giants gave Saquon Barkley a new, short-term deal.

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With that being said, this is at no fault of Bijan or the Falcons. You are guaranteed an amount of money based on where you are drafted. Both sides knew what was coming in terms of money, and thus this is the fault of the terrible circumstances of the RB position.

Atlanta Falcons rookie Bijan Robinson will have a fatter wallet in 2023 than any other RB, including Saquon Barkley

Bijan Robinson and the Atlanta Falcons agreed on a rookie contract that amounted to a basic four-year deal with a fifth-year option that every first-round pick is entitled to. Bijan was awarded $21.9 million since he was the eighth overall pick (of course, there is some negotiating with numbers that goes on so $21.9 million isn't a set number).

Last year, the Falcons made Drake London the eighth-overall pick and signed him to the four-year—fifth-year option—contract worth $21.5 million. In other words, the Falcons couldn't pay Bijan based on his position, they had to pay him based on his draft slot.

Anyways, Saquon Barkley just agreed to a one-year deal worth $10 million. His average salary will obviously be $10 million, compared to Bijan's $5.5 million.

But, as we all know, contracts aren't just about two numbers—they are way more complicated than that. There are cap hits, incentives, guarantees (roster bonuses, signing bonuses, etc.), and total cash, which is the focus here.

Out of the 182 running backs currently under contract (according to Spotrac), rookie Bijan Robinson has the most 'total cash' for the 2023 season—and it really isn't even close.

Here are the top ten in total cash:

  1. Bijan Robinson - $13.72 mil
  2. Christian McCaffrey - $12 mil
  3. Alvin Kamara - $11 mil
  4. Aaron Jones - $10.97 mil
  5. Nick Chubb - $10.85 mil
  6. Jahmyr Gibbs - $10.73 mil
  7. Derrick Henry - $10.5 mil
  8. Saquon Barkley - $10.09 mil
  9. Tony Pollard - $10.09 mil
  10. Josh Jacobs - $10.09 mil

That is simply crazy. Everyone but Bijan and Jahmyr Gibbs has played at least a few seasons in the NFL, yet the rookie is on top and the other rookie is just outside the top five.

Again, this is anything but the Bijan or the Falcons' fault (unless you want to count them drafting him with the eighth pick). It is just an unfortunate situation that doesn't have a clear fix.

Holding out won't work because there will always be other running backs who will play for less and we know how easy it has been to replace RBs. Teams also won't be willing to pay more than they have to.

This is something that needs to be addressed by the NFL, but even then there isn't a clear fix. If you work rules into the collective bargaining agreement that says you have to pay running backs based on how they produce, then teams will just replace their star RBs even earlier, which would create even bigger problems.

The facts are the facts, while Bijan is a generational talent, he doesn't deserve to have the highest salary amongst the position before he even plays a snap—I guarantee he would agree. Yet, he nor the Falcons are at fault. It is just a vicious cycle that honestly seems unavoidable and unfixable.