The last few years have been tough on NFL running backs. As tough as life can be for multi-millionaires, anyway.
Organizations around the league have come to the cumulative realization that, while there's a can't-miss talent at the position every now and again, no one running back can do anything that several cheaper options cannot. Thus, the smart teams have refused to pay tailbacks anything more than the league average, and the ones that did end up paying big money to backs mostly ended up regretting it (see: Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell).
From a certain perspective, it is an unfortunate development because it's a built-in cap loophole for teams. Draft a running back, pay them pennies on the dollar for the production and value they bring to an offense, then let them leave and do it all over again. It leads to some running backs getting the short end of the stick. Even if they significantly outperform their contract, no one will give them a proportionate raise because it's too easy to replace them.
In the midst of a discussion about Ezekiel Elliott, one of the few exceptions to the above thoughts, Stephen A. Smith tossed out an idea: what if NFL teams could go over the cap to sign running backs, therefore ensuring those who are worthy of big money receive it, and teams don't have to worry about how it factors into their cap?
It is an... interesting idea, I suppose. One of the various reasons that NFL teams are reluctant to pay their running backs is because teams that give up cap space to pay running backs are rarely in Super Bowl contention. Taking that away would theoretically result in more running backs getting what they're worth.
But this isn't really a problem that has or needs a solution. It's simply the evolution of the game treating one position poorly. Teams simply no longer need an elite running back to win football games, and it's been that way for the better part of this century. I mean, I get it, it sucks for all the kids who grow up dreaming of being great running backs who will "only" get paid a few million for their services before they're tossed aside. But that's just football. It's a brutal and unforgiving game.
I'm not at all convinced that this would lead teams to pay their running backs, either. Most general managers did not get to where they are on the back of sentimentality. It would be nice if they decided to do their RBs a favor and throw them an extra few bucks when they suffer serious physical abuse almost every play to help drive a good chunk of the team's success, but few owners are going to okay giving away more money just because they can.
Elite running backs are a dying breed. That's disappointing because there are few things in football more fun to watch than a great tailback juking and spinning his way through defenders. But essentially granting teams a cap exception for running backs is an idea with no real goal or end-game in mind. Points for creativity, though.