Jaguars RB Travis Etienne won't benefit from the Christian McCaffrey deal

• Christian McCaffrey just got a record-setting contract, but it won't probaly affect the running back market.
Dec 22, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars RB Travis Etienne Jr. (1) and New York Jets DE Carl Lawson (58) at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 22, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars RB Travis Etienne Jr. (1) and New York Jets DE Carl Lawson (58) at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Christian McCaffrey has enjoyed a career revival since being traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 2022. Not surprisingly, he just got a contract that's made him the highest-paid running back in the NFL by a wide margin. Unfortunately, he plays one of the most undervalued positions in the league, so you probably won't see other running backs getting that kind of deal anytime soon. That includes Trevis Etienne.

McCaffrey just got a two-year extension worth $38 million. His annual average of $19 is the highest among running backs. It surpasses the second highest (Alvin Kamara) by $4 million. If it were another position, he would've set a new bar, but running back salaries have depreciated, so it won't probably have a ripple effect.

This past offseason, Saquon Barkley inked a contract that pays him $12.5 million per year. Fellow running back Josh Jacobs got a deal with a yearly average of $12 million. Both are pretty accomplished players. Yet, neither one came close to McCaffrey, at least when it comes to compensation.

That begs the question, what kind of contract will Travis Etienne potentially get?

The Jaguars aren't in a rush to give Travis Etienne an extension

When it comes to Travis Etienne, the Jacksonville Jaguars believe that more is less, meaning that they want to decrease their workload in 2024. That was the plan last year but it didn't come to fruition because then-rookie Tank Bigsby didn't develop into the complementary back they expected him to be.

Head coach Doug Pederson wants to get Tank Bigsby more involved after an underwhelming rookie campaign. Besides averaging less than 3.0, he actively hurt the team with turnovers. The hope is that he'll make strides in Year 2 and take away some of Etienne's workload.

Etienne had 270 carries in 2023. The year before, he logged 220. Jacksonville probably wants to keep him in the 200-220 range next season. For comparison, Christian McCaffrey had 272 carries last year, along with 67 receptions. He will likely have a similar workload for the Niners in 2024.

For the sake of argument, let's say Bigsby steps up and Etienne gets 200 carries in while averaging 5.1 yards like he did in 2022. He would tally 1,020 yards. Imagine he'll also get involved in the passing game and hauls in 50 catches while averaging 9.0 yards per catch. Those are good numbers for a running back but not the kind that warrants a top-market contract, at least not in today's NFL.

Working against Etienne is that the Jaguars just picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. It will pay him $6.4 million and prevent him from hitting the open market until 2026. But even then, the Jaguars could use the franchise tag on him, and keep him for another year.

The tag for running backs was around $9 million in 2024. Even if it went up $2 million then, it would make better sense, from a financial perspective, to use it rather than give Etienne an extension, even if he stays healthy and produces the next two seasons.

Maybe if Etienne does breakout and has more than 1,500 yards in each of the next two years, he could have a bit of leverage. Even then, he may not have much leverage. The former Clemson Tiger could hold out but Jacksonville could simply lean on Bigbsy more or look for a potential replacement in the draft.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it's not a given that the Jags will extend Etienne. Let's say they do, it's more feasible to imagine him getting a contract in the range of Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs.

The bottom line is that Travis Etienne is a fine player, one that's become a key cog on the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, it's hard to see him getting a record-setting contract anytime soon.

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