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Lynch addresses league-wide running back contract controversy

Lynch addresses league-wide running back contract controversy originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The controversy surrounding running backs and their NFL contracts continues to be a topic of discussion.

On Monday, 49ers general manager John Lynch provided his two cents on the situation and how he foresees it evolving.

“Yeah, first of all, I’d tell you I have empathy and I think I can relate to those guys,” Lynch told reporters after practice. “I played a position that I felt like was undervalued for a long, long time. And I had to battle through that myself. I remember the people closest to me, ‘You make yourself invaluable and as much versatility, as much game-changing, can this team play without you?’ You have to try to make that such. I think we’re fortunate.”

The 49ers have one of the highest-paid running backs in the league, Christian McCaffrey. The All-Pro running back is entering the third year of the four-year, $64 million contract extension he signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2020. Only Bijan Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons is paid more, per Spotrac.

“Could we play without our guy? I think we could. Do we want to? No,” Lynch added. “That’s why we paid so much to go get him. And I credit Christian. He’s not just a running back. He’s a lot of things for us and we talk about him unlocking our offense. So, I’m just fortunate that we have a guy that can do that. And I think when we have a guy that can do that, it inspires the other backs to not just become running backs, to work on all facets of their game. And when you do that, you become more than just that.

“So, like I said, I have empathy for those guys. Having said that, I was always tied to the market at safety. I’m proud that I’m part of the guys who started to knock it down. So, I think those things happen incrementally and hopefully there’s some wins for those guys coming up because I do feel for them.”

McCaffrey has been very vocal about the issue, to say the least. Pro Bowl backs Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard didn’t reach long-term extension agreements with their respective teams before the July 17 deadline, referring to it as “criminal.”

Back in May, McCaffrey expressed his disappointment with the league and how it has devalued the position, saying running backs deserve more respect.

The NFL certainly has some work to do when it comes to its relationship with running backs, and it’s clear that players and executives won’t stay quiet about it.

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