Top 10 Highest Paid NFL Running Backs

Top 10 Highest Paid NFL Running Backs

Running backs touch the ball more than anybody except for the quarterback and the center during a football game. A good running back can make the most of their offensive line’s blocking ability, while a bad running back can hold back a team’s offense. This piece highlights the ten highest paid running backs in the NFL, based on their salary for the 2022 season. 

Who are the highest paid running backs in the world?

  1. Derrick Henry - $14,000,000
  2. Ezekiel Elliot - $12,400,000
  3. Alvin Kamara - $11,500,000
  4. Dalvin Cook - $8,900,000
  5. Joe Mixon - $8,700,000
  6. Christian McCaffrey - $8,600,000
  7. James Conner - $7,975,000
  8. Saquon Barkley - $7,217,000
  9. Leonard Fournette - $7,000,000
  10. Kareem Hunt - $6,250,000

1. Derrick Henry - $14,000,000

Derrick Henry is the highest paid NFL running back for the 2022 season. Henry is playing on a four-year, $50 million contract he signed on July 15th, 2020. Henry was drafted by the Titans 45th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft after he played at Alabama. 

Henry is one of the most dominant running backs in the league, meaning it’s fitting that he is the highest paid back. Henry’s market value is approximately $16 million, so Tennessee is getting great value out of Henry. 

2. Ezekiel Elliot - $12,400,000

“Zeke,” as many call Ezekiel Elliot, is a veteran running back for the Dallas Cowboys. Zeke was drafted in the same draft as Henry, but much earlier: Elliot was selected 4th overall by the Cowboys. 

In 2019, Elliot signed a six-year, $90 million extension with Dallas. Zeke will get $12.4 million for playing the 2022 season, and will be a free agent after the conclusion of the 2026 season. 

3. Alvin Kamara - $11,500,000

Alvin Kamara comes in third on this list, earning $11.5 million in 2022. Kamara was drafted one year later than Zeke and Henry, being selected 67th overall in 2017. Kamara has spent his entire career with the New Orleans Saints. 

Kamara has a nose for the end zone: in his first five seasons, Kamara racked up 67 touchdowns in 73 games! Kamara is off to a slow start in 2022, with 0 touchdowns through the first five weeks of NFL football.

4. Dalvin Cook - $8,900,000

Dalvin Cook is set to earn $8.9 million for the 2022 NFL season, which will be his 6th in the NFL. Coming into 2022, Cook had 39 rushing touchdowns in 56 NFL games. The former 2nd round pick out of Florida State is 27 years old, and is a dominant power rusher when he can stay healthy. 

Cook’s top season came in 2020 when he mustered 16 rushing touchdowns in 14 games. Cook has never been much of a pass catching back, with just three receiving touchdowns in his career. 

5. Joe Mixon - $8,700,000

Joe Mixon comes in in 5th place, thanks to his salary of $8.7 million, which is just a hair under Cook’s. Mixon went to the Super Bowl with his Cincinnati Bengals following the 2021 season and lost to the Los Angeles Rams.

Mixon had a career year in 2021, racking up 13 rushing touchdowns, 3 receiving touchdowns, and over 1500 total yards in just 16 games. Mixon had historically been a disappointing fantasy football player, but he now carries a large stock thanks to his success in 2021. 

6. Christian McCaffrey - $8,600,000

If you thought the margin between Cook’s salary and Mixon’s salary was small, check out the $0.1 million gap between Mixon and McCaffrey. McCaffrey, often called “CMC,” was drafted 8th overall by Carolina in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

CMC is dominant when he’s healthy, but he’s really struggled with injuries over the past two years. After playing 16 games in each of his first three NFL seasons, McCaffrey was limited to three games in 2020 and seven games in 2021. 

7. James Conner - $7,975,000

James Conner gets the 7th spot on this list thanks to his 2022 salary, which is just a touch under $8 million. Conner attended the University of Pittsburgh and then was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in round three of the 2017 draft. He also grew up in Pennsylvania, playing high school football at McDowell High School in Erie, Pennsylvania. 

After four seasons with the Steelers, Conner signed with the Arizona Cardinals. In his first season with the Cards, Conner managed 18 touchdowns in 15 games, and was awarded a new, bigger contract. 

8. Saquon Barkley - $7,217,000

Saquon Barkley is the highest drafted player on this list, having been selected number two overall in 2018 by the New York Giants. Barkley was instantly effective, scoring 15 touchdowns in his first NFL season. 

Barkley has struggled to recreate the success of his rookie season, partially due to injury troubles that limited him to three games in 2020. However, Barkley is off to a hot start to 2022, with three touchdowns and over 670 yards through his first five games. 

9. Leonard Fournette - $7,000,000

Leonard Fournette was drafted 4th overall in 2017 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fournette had a decent stint in Jacksonville, scoring 19 touchdowns in 36 games across three seasons before leaving for Tampa Bay. 

2022 is Fournette’s 3rd season in Tampa Bay, and things have gone smoothly thus far: Fournette was a Super Bowl Champion his first year, and made the NFC semifinals in 2021. Fournette inked a three-year deal during the offseason prior to the 2022 season, meaning he’ll be in Tampa Bay through the 2024 season. 

10. Kareem Hunt - $6,250,000

Kareem Hunt may not top the Browns’ depth chart at the running back position, but he is still the highest paid back on the squad. Teammate Nick Chubb takes up the bulk of the touches in Cleveland’s backfield, but only makes about $4.2 million in 2022. 

Hunt was a Kansas City draft pick in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Hunt was eventually waived by the Chiefs after video surfaced of Hunt assaulting a 19-year-old woman. After being waived by the Chiefs, Hunt joined the Browns in 2022, earning $6.25 million a year over two years. 

Honorable Mentions

  • Cordarrelle Patterson - $6.25 million
  • Chase Edmonds - $6.1 million
  • Rashaad Penny - $5.75 million
  • Aaron Jones - $5.75 million
  • Austin Ekeler - $5.5 million
  • Breece Hall - $4.4 million
  • Nick Chubb - $4.2 million
  • Kenneth Walker - $4.02 million
  • J.D. McKissic - $4 million
  • Jamaal Williams - $3.75 million

FAQ

Who is the highest paid running back in the NFL?

In terms of 2022 NFL salary, Derrick Henry is the highest paid running back, earning $14 million with the Titans. The running back with the highest cap hit, on the other hand, is Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot will have an $18.2 million cap hit for the 2022 season.