In case it was unclear, that was a reference to a Lloyd Banks album.. another hip-hop artist that wanted to be paid more than he was worth.
Le’Veon Bell, for whatever reason, has taken it upon himself to make a hip-hop song, called ‘Focus’. While he is a good NFL running back, he should stick to that, because the track is terrible. But that’s neither here nor there. What I am here to discuss is one specific line from that song.
‘I’m at the top and if not I’m the closest/I’mma need $15 a year and they know this’
Okay, yes, when healthy, Bell is one of the best backs in the NFL. He’s fast, versatile, and has some power behind him. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract, set to be paid $966,900 in 2016. Which, honestly, is a joke when you think about the fact that he has scored 22 TDs in only 35 games played. The man wants to go from under a million, to $15M/year in one fell swoop. He has an idea of what he’s worth in his own mind, and has no problem opening his mouth about it. (Actually, Le’Veon Bell has no problem running his mouth about anything.)
Here’s The Problem
Bell has more than one thing standing in his way, if he’s truly hoping he gets paid that $15M a year from Pittsburgh.
First and foremost, he already played his hand, in two ways. ‘I’m never leaving Pittsburgh’, Bell stated earlier in the week, amidst all the controversy cause by his lyrics. And he already expressed what his wishes were as far as a paycheck. All the Steelers have to do is counter and wait, when it is time, seeing as how we all know his desire to stay in Steel City now.
Secondly, you’ll notice that I used the words ‘when healthy’. Bell has only played in 35 of 48 games in his 3 year career. He has had 3 separate injuries in 3 consecutive seasons, the most recent of which was in Week 8 of the 2015 campaign, when he tore his MCL and PCL. That doesn’t necessarily instill confidence in the hearts of the Steelers’ front office, especially when you consider that the RB position is one of the most physically demanding positions in the NFL. It grinds the toughest of players into nothing over time, and if your body is already beaten in the first 3 years of your career, it makes staying healthy that much tougher. An MCL/PCL tear means severe instability in that knee, which is a huge detriment to anybody, let alone a running back in the NFL. While Bell is still young, and his body can recover more quickly than, say, DeAngelo Williams, it still is a thought in the minds of negotiators. So, Bell has missed almost a full season of games over the 3 years, and wants $15M a year? Hmm.
Next, welcome to 2016. This is a pass-first league. The AFC North has taken longer than others to catch up with that, being that at least two of the teams in the division (Baltimore and Pittsburgh) have consistently had smashmouth defenses and a mean running attack. But the running back being the ‘pillar’ of the team is an era gone past. Wide receivers are commanding more money than ever, and running backs are sliding down the food chain. Add that to the fact that Pittsburgh didn’t take a step back in 2015 with Bell on IR, and the ability to negotiate for that amount of money is taken away from him.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
None of this is to say that Bell is not in the top 5 RBs in the league. His skill set is diverse, and he is a dynamic back, to say the least. Even with all the games that he has missed, he is still fourth in the league among ALL running backs during that time in YFC (yards from scrimmage). FOURTH. On top of that, his YPC average over the past three years ranks first in the league. You can’t argue that Bell isn’t worth a payday. I just don’t believe that he is worth the payday that he is apparently asking for.
Who is to say that Bell doesn’t sustain more injuries? Does his attitude translate to better play, or is it bad PR for the Steelers? Has he peaked early, or is the best yet to come? These are all questions that deserve a more in-depth exploration before he gets a paycheck that has 8 digits in it.