“Times they are a changin’...”
Those words, written and sung by Bob Dylan, can certainly ring true for a lot of aspects of modern society, but they even hold strong for the NFL too. In the mid-90s through the early 2000s, the running back position was considered one of the most important on the football team —second only to the quarterback.
Now? It seems as if teams consider them expendable, and with the emergence of every Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara, teams are okay with letting high-priced running backs walk to pick up a younger and cheaper player in the NFL Draft.
Gone are the huge contracts to players like Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy, and even though Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is doing his best to reset the running back market, one NFL Insider doesn’t see him achieving his goal — even though he should.
Take a look at what Jason La Confora of CBS had to say about Bell’s current situation:
I do not expect Le’Veon Bell to come away with a market-setting, record contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I don’t know too many people in the NFL who believe he will. But to say that he has a strong cheering section behind him would be an understatement.
La Confora continues:
And the bottom line with the Steelers is that, except for quarterbacks, they aren’t going to guarantee massive amounts at signing and spread those guarantees three or more years out. And while one could clearly make the argument that Bell is just as important to this offensive juggernaut as Ben Roethlisberger or Antonio Brown, that receiver stigma, and Bell’s off-field issues, in the end, will preclude him from securing a landmark pact from the Steelers by the July 16 deadline, I believe.
Whether it should or not is clearly up for debate. There are several within the NFLPA and agent community who would argue that Bell, and a handful of others at his position, deserve to be compensated as elite offensive weapons and not pure running backs based on all they do for the passing game. The fact that they can beat linebackers in space in the backfield and win against corners or safeties in the slot and run precise routes and dominate in pass protection should thrust them into the same stratosphere we see top pass catchers routinely reach.
”If Jarvis Landry is a $16M-a-year player, then why isn’t Le’Veon Bell?” is a question an agent recently posed to me, with Landry securing that money from the Browns. My initial response was that Bell quite possibly would be if the Steelers shopped him as the Dolphins did Landry – who also began this offseason with a franchise tag before being dealt to the Browns – but that teams have already set their budgets and doled out their massive deals back in March. If the Steelers were going to go that route – not that they ever entertained it, as they had already budgeted Bell on the tag in 2018 and are in Super Bowl or bust mode, effectively – those trade talks would have been a February/March matter, not June.
More from the agent to La Confora:
But the agent made several salient points. “Landry wins in the slot; Bell can do that too and a lot more,” he noted. I agree – if Bell got the volume of slot targets Landry does, he could catch 100 balls and easily average the 10 yards per catch Landry does. But he is also dominant running between the tackles and on the perimeter so he would not be utilized in that manner. But is Bell a better football player than Landy? Of course. Absolutely. I don’t who could argue to the contrary.
While Steelers fans have grown tired of talking about Bell, the comparison to Bell’s situation and that of Jarvis Landry certainly is valid. Regardless of your feelings of Bell and how he has approached his current situation throughout negotiations, you can’t overlook his value to an offense.
Bell does it all — literally.
There are times I feel Steelers fans may forget this simple-yet-complex fact. While the fan base wants to see Bell take a significant pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh and help the team keep its core together, he also should be paid what he's worth.
This would be similar to someone working a 9-to-5 desk job. They show up, bust their butt and are one of the best at what they do. It comes time for the boss to give out raises and, during the meeting, he states how he isn’t going to pay this person what they deserve because he has spent too much money on other members of their staff.
It happens, but it doesn’t mean this individual isn’t going to be miffed about it, and possibly want to go elsewhere where they will be compensated for their skill and effort.
Bell is in the precarious position of being the best at a position which simply isn’t valued as much as it used to be. La Confora brings up some tremendous points, but is ultimately correct when predicting how Bell won’t be resetting the running back market anytime soon.