- Le’Veon Bell is sitting out the entire 2018 season, but he’ll be back next year with a new contract.
- Bettors can now wager on the length of Bell’s next deal.
- Is it likely to be over or under four years? That’s the question of the day.
Now that Le’Veon Bell has officially punted on the 2018 season, forfeiting his entire salary for the year, all eyes are turning towards 2019 and beyond.
There are multiple props on what the future holds for the former Michigan State Spartan, including his next team, the value of his next contract, and the length of his next deal.
We already looked at the odds on Bell’s next team. Today, we’re exploring length of term and where the value lies.
|Length of Le’Veon Bell’s next contract||Odds|
|OVER 4.0 YEARS||-165|
|UNDER 4.0 YEARS||+125|
Bell chose to sit out this entire season because he’s playing the long game, like Great Wall of China-long. He thinks he will recoup the $14.5 M he would have made this season over the lifespan of his next contract, and he wasn’t willing to lose out on a longterm contract by playing this year and risking injury.
We already know he declined a five-year, $70-million offer from Pittsburgh because it didn’t have enough guaranteed money. Don’t expect him to back down from his demands for more.
Will he get it? Probably.
This offseason, Bell will either …
- be franchise tagged (again) by the Steelers,
- be transition tagged by the Steelers, or
- become a free agent if Pittsburgh does neither 1 or 2.
Given what the franchise tag would potentially cost the Steelers ($25 million), you can count on it being option (2) or (3). Importantly, both would allow Bell to negotiate with all 32 teams. Under the transition tag, Pittsburgh would simply have the right to match any offer Bell received.
There will be a market for Bell’s services. As Sam Quinn at 247Sports outlined, there are no fewer than four teams (Bills, Jets, Ravens, Texans) who would be a near-perfect fit for Bell and have the cap space to sign him to a longterm deal.
(Side note: there could be value on the Bills, Ravens, and Texans in the odds to be Bell’s next team.)
There is ample precedent among NFL running backs for four-plus-year contracts. Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy both signed five-year deals. Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette, Lamar Miller, Ezekiel Elliott, Mark Ingram, Dion Lewis, Jerick McKinnon, and many others are playing on four-year contracts.
Highest-Paid Running Backs in the NFL
|RUNNING BACK||CONTRACT LENGTH (YEARS)||CONTRACT VALUE|
|Devonta Freeman (Falcons)||5||$41.25 M|
|LeSean McCoy (Bills)||5||$40 M|
|Todd Gurley (Rams)||4||$57.5 M|
|Saquon Barkley (Giants)||4||$31.2 M|
|Jerick McKinnon (49ers)||4||$30 M|
|Leonard Fournette (Jaguars)||4||$27.15 M|
|Lamar Miller (Texans)||4||$26 M|
|Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys)||4||$24.9 M|
|Dion Lewis (Titans)||4||$19.8 M|
|Christian McCaffrey (Panthers)||4||$17.24 M|
|Mark Ingram (Saints)||4||$16 M|
While some of those guys are a little younger than the 26-year-old Bell, many were older or the same age when they signed their deals, including McCoy (27 when he signed), Lewis (28), and McKinnon (26).
If Bell were a lesser player — closer to a Carlos Hyde, Isaiah Crowell, or Latavius Murray — he wouldn’t be able to command more than three years. But he’s a two-time First-Team All Pro, including in 2017, i.e. the last time he played.
Even in an age when running-back value is at an all-time low, teams who are getting little to no production from the position are going to covet Bell, especially teams that are also trying to groom young, franchise QBs (cough cough Jets and Bills).
Bell thinks of himself as a revolutionary player who isn’t just a “running back,,” and his abilities as a pass catcher bear that out. He would be a perfect ballast in a burgeoning offense, and he’s going to get a big, longterm deal this offseason, one way or another.
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