Why the Jaguars must reward Travis Etienne after paying Trevor Lawrence

• The Jaguars just gave Trevor Lawrence a massive extension. Will the Jaguars also shell out top-market money for RB Travis Etienne?
Carolina Panthers v Jacksonville Jaguars
Carolina Panthers v Jacksonville Jaguars / Courtney Culbreath/GettyImages

The Jacksonville Jaguars put their money where the mouth was, signing Trevor Lawrence to a five-year, $275 million extension, $200 million of which is guaranteed. With their franchise quarterback taken care of, the question will be how much his offensive partner in crime is worth.

Lawrence’s trusty sidekick, Travis Etienne, now awaits to see what kind of money he might receive. So, what would the Jags' speedy running back be entitled to?

Travis Etienne’s current contract

After missing the entire 2021 regular season with a Lisfranc injury, Travis Etienne has made up for lost time over the past two years. In his debut campaign, he ranked ninth in NFL rushing during the regular season (1,125 yards). In 2023, despite some rough outings, the Clemson product still managed to rack up over 1,000 yards on the ground (1,008) despite just a 3.8-yard average per carry.

Months after being drafted in the first round by the Jaguars in 2021, the club signed Etienne to a four-year rookie contract worth $12.9 million. In April of this year, they decided to pick up his fifth-year option. Per Spotrac, his 2024 cap hit will be just over $4 million, and will earn just over $2 million this upcoming season, well below what he’s proven he deserves. Given his consistency and what he means to this offense, you’d have to think he’s next on the priority list for the Jags to sign.

Lawrence’s new contract makes him the joint-highest-paid player in the league alongside Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Trevor’s Clemson teammate is sure to get a massive extension, which could make him among the highest-paid players at his position.

Who are the highest-paid running backs in the NFL?

Earlier in May, Christian McCaffrey maintained his status as the highest-paid running back in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers signed him to a two-year extension worth $38 million, keeping him in the Bay Area until 2027.

After McCaffrey, the wealthiest running back in the league, per Over The Cap, is Alvin Kamara, earning a cool $15 million a season on his current deal with the New Orleans Saints, which expires in 2026. The Colts' Jonathan Taylor is third, making $1 million less per year than Kamara, new Eagles running back Saquon Barkley is fourth at just over $12.5 million annually, and Josh Jacobs, now with the Green Bay Packers, rounds out the top five with a yearly salary of $12 million.

Derrick Henry, who’s finished in the two in regular-season rushing yards in four of the past five regular seasons, winning the rushing title twice is seventh among highest-earning backs at $8 million per year.

Seeing as Etienne is still under a rookie contract, he ranks significantly lower on the list of highest-paid running backs. Over The Cap has the 25-year-old at just over $3 million for his contract in 2024, ranking him 25th ironically on that list.

What is Travis Etienne’s value?

Travis Etienne Jr.
Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages

For many, Lawrence doesn’t deserve the wages he was recently given, but Etienne seems to deserve much higher wages.

In 2022, Etienne averaged 5.1 yards-per-carry, slightly above McCaffrey’s average that year (4.7). Etienne’s average that season was also above Barkley, Jacobs, Miles Sanders, Joe Mixon and Derrick Henry that year. Even in what was a difficult 2023 campaign, the Jags running back still rushed for more yards than Tony Pollard (1,005), Barkley (962), and Aaron Jones (656), all of whom are in the top 10 for top annual salaries among NFL running backs.

The quarterbacking position is the most important in the NFL, but if salaries are performance-based, Etienne deserves a new deal worthy of being among the highest in the league at his position. He’s not only put up strong numbers but also proved in the playoffs that he can come through in critical moments, putting together a first down run that set up their game-winning field goal against the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2022 Wild Card Round.

Meanwhile, last year, Etienne had 58 catches and 476 yards through the air, proving his versatility.

Given the market at his position, he’s unlikely to rival Lawrence’s salary, but if Lawrence is worth being the joint-wealthiest quarterback in the league, shouldn’t Etienne be among the top-earning running backs? Lawrence may be the Jags franchise player, but where would this offense be without Etienne?

Jacksonville has only lost one game when Etienne has rushed for at least 100 yards (23-17 against the New York Giants in October 2022). That should help him solidify his case.

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