Le’Veon Bell’s negotiations for a new contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers have been incredibly contentious. The team wants to pay him as the top running back in football, but Bell wants to be paid as a No. 2 wide receiver as well. That would be unheard of. Unless Bell has some means of cloning himself so that he can line up in the backfield and out wide at the same time, it would be incredibly hard for the Steelers to justify such a contract.
Bell deserves to be paid based on his production. If he truly produces at a level commensurate with a top running back and a No. 2 wide receiver, then he should be paid as such. But that should be figured out on a quantitative basis.
The absolute top of the current running back market is LeSean McCoy’s contract. According to overthecap.com, it is set to pay him $40.05 million over five years with $18.25 million guaranteed. That number might seem small compared to what has been throw around in the media. Here’s why: the salary cap when McCoy signed that contract was approximately $143 million. It has grown to approximately $167 million in the two years since. Adjust McCoy’s contract for that inflation, and you get a deal worth approximately $46.8 million over the full five years with approximately $21.3 million guaranteed. Not quite the numbers you see for Bell, but closer.
Let’s treat McCoy as a baseline, and as Bell has played four NFL seasons, we’ll measure the four seasons McCoy played before signing his new contract. In that span, McCoy carried the ball 1,099 times for 5,075 yards and was targeted for 237 passes in which he gained 1,382 yards. That’s an average of 1,614…
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