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Declining emphasis with NFL fullbacks should worry Chris Pressley

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The release of Lawrence Vickers in Dallas continues a declining league valuation of fullbacks.

Chris Trotman

The idea that Cincinnati could head into the regular season without a true fullback is a very real possibility. We could cite the games evolution, the devaluation of the position, or look specifically at the organic development for Cincinnati. Along with moving Orson Charles to the backfield, Chris Pressley's rehabilitation could extend into the regular season. Pressley suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Philadelphia Eagles last season.

Yet the harsh reality for players like Pressley is that natural fullbacks are fading from the NFL. Perhaps we can blame college football, a game fantastically evolving into four and five-wide sets. Some call it the rapid evolution of the NFL, applying more shotgun formations, spread offenses, and even the popular read-option transferring from college.

Bengals offensive coordinator sees more fluidity to the position than before.

"It's a very versatile position," Gruden told the Cincinnati Enquirer earlier this month. "If you are a one-dimensional team this day and age it's not going to last very long. We are hoping to do a lot of different things. We already know he can get outside and run routes and catch the ball."

It's unbelievably clear how minimally teams view the importance of fullbacks, just by examining their salaries. According to a John Clayton posting last month, the average salary for a starting fullback in 2013 is $1.1 million. That's less than the average salary for a place kicker, punter, and more comparable to a long-snapper.

Vonta Leach, a three-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro, remains a free agent after the Ravens released him on June 11. Teams like the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins have expressed interest, with Miami being viewed as the "frontrunner." There haven't been any talks according to the Miami Herald. The belief is that Leach wants a multi-year deal whereas the Dolphins are looking for something in the neighborhood of one year.

You'd think that a three-time Pro Bowler and a three-time first-team All-pro fullback would generate more interest, but that's the evolution of the NFL.

The Dallas Cowboys released their healthy starting fullback Lawrence Vickers on Friday, who was scheduled to earn $1.2 million in base salary this year. According to Tom Pelissero with the USA Today, the release leaves only eight fullbacks in the NFL scheduled to earn over $1 million in 2013.

According to Spotrac, there's only five players scheduled to earn $1 million or more in base salary and the tenth-highest salary at fullback is scheduled to make only $715,000.

FULLBACK TEAM '13 BASE SALARY
Michael Robinson Seahawks $2.5 million
LeRon McClain Chargers $2.25 million
Marcel Reece Raiders $1.423 million
Mike Tolbert Panthers $1 million
Erik Lorig Buccaneers $1 million
Chris Pressley Bengals $900,000
Jerome Felton Vikings $850,000
Montell Owens Lions $850,000
Greg Jones Texans $840,000
Quinn Johnson Titans $715,000

We'd like to say that Pressley is safe, but we can't. He's not one of the game's top fullbacks and the Bengals have an eye for improving the dynamics in the passing game. Neither of which bodes well for him.