Armchair GM

Armchair GM – What is Le’Veon Bell REALLY Worth?

June 20, 2018
10 minutes read
Armchair GM – What is Le’Veon Bell REALLY Worth?

Rapper and part-time football player, Le’Veon Bell, thinks he’s worth 17 million dollars a year. He thinks he deserves to be paid as both a Running Back and Wide Receiver. We are going to take a look at his numbers and other factors and try to determine what Bell is really worth.

The first thing you have to take into account is Todd Haley’s ridiculous over reliance on Bell. Bell seems very important to the Steelers because the Steelers’ coaches have made him important. Could the Steelers get similar production split between two or three players? Based on Bell’s averages, they probably could.

This is a little bit dry and brings in some math but the math is pretty simple and I’m in full Armchair GM mode. We also have to analyze whether Bell’s argument that he is performing as both a Running Back and Wide Receiver is valid.

Let’s Look at The Averages

So, let’s first look at Bell in terms of his averages instead of his yardage. Bell started out very slowly and spent the majority of the season in the 3.7 to 3.8 yard per carry territory. He only pulled his rushing average up to 4.0 ypc in the last few  games. Four yards a carry is sort of the bare minimum you want from your featured back. It’s a benchmark for mediocrity. We’ll get into Bell’s best available comp in this area soon, so let’s move on to his claim that he function’s as a Wide Receiver.

Bell had 85 catches for 665 yards at an average of 7.7 yards per reception. If this were a Wide Receiver’s numbers they would be laughable, being at least  three yards below what is considered acceptable for a Slot Receiver running only underneath routes. To give you an idea of the closest comparison for a WR it’s Cole Beasley of the Cowboys who had 8.7 yards per catch.

To further put this in context the Steelers, Tight End Jesse James also had 8.7 yards per catch. The highest Wide Receiver’s average is more than twice Bell’s, Marvin Jones of Detroit with 18.7 ypc. Antonio Brown, who Bell wants to be paid as much or more than (probably so he can have locker room bragging rights), his average is 15.2 yards per catch. The point is, YES, Bell is a talented receiver for a Running Back but in no way is he a Wide Receiver nor should he consider himself worthy of getting paid for playing two positions.

Now, I want to return to Haley’s over reliance on Le’Veon because that is one of Bell’s best arguments. Bell’s  321 carries made him #1 in that category in the NFL. That is hell-a-lot of carries to ask of any runner. He also had 85 receptions which is the most of any Running Back with Alvin Kamara being second with 81 catches. So, the amount of effort Bell puts in during the course of a season is comparable to playing two positions but the NFL does not pay for effort. They pay for performance and Bell’s performance as reflected by averages, 4.0  yards per carry, is mediocre for Running Backs and at 7.7 yards per reception is not even on the charts for Wide Receivers. Also, many players in the NFL perform roles outside of their listed position and most of them get paid for their primary responsibilities. Most players make no big deal about this. They consider it their responsibility. They consider it being a good teammate.

Bottom line: Le’Veon Bell is a one position player. That position is Running Back. He only deserves to be compared to other Running Backs. And if the Steelers had spread the ball around a little more and not over relied on Bell he wouldn’t have delusions that he is something he is not, so, they are partially to blame.

Now, let’s look at the closest comp to Bell among the Running Backs and see how that pans out money wise.

Best Apples to Apples Comparison

The best apples to apples comparison to Le’Veon Bell is LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills. We’ll use 2017 numbers for our calculations.

Le’Veon Bell had 321 carries, 1291 yards for 4.0 yards per carry and 9 touchdowns. He added 85 catches for 7.7 ypr 665 yards and 2 touchdowns.

LeSean McCoy had 287 carries for 1138 yards for 4.0 ypc and 6 touchdowns. McCoy was also an effective pass receiver with 59 receptions for 448 yards at a 7.6 yards per catch average and 2 touchdowns. His contract pays him  $8,010,000  in 2018, according to ‘Over the Cap’. That makes him the second highest paid RB to Devonta Freeman at $8,250,000.

So, if we do the calculation by the averages, Le’Veon Bell can’t justify getting paid any more than LeSean McCoy. They have identical numbers for rushes at 4.0 yards per carry and almost exactly the same receiving averages and 7.7. and 7.6 yards per reception.

By this calculation Bell is only entitled to a contract comparable to McCoy’s which puts him in the 8 million dollar range.

Bell’s Best Argument to Get the Most Money.

Okay, so if we look at this from a point of view of performance Bell is only entitled to the money of the closest comp which is McCoy. If we look at production then he has an argument for more money and this brings us back to the over reliance question. If we look at the difference between McCoy and Bell’s production expressed in yardage it gives Bell his best argument.

I created a multiplier based on the difference between Bell and McCoy’s yardage.

Based on production Bell’s contract would look like this.

Difference in rushing yardage (1291 / 1138) = 1.13 x $8,010,000 = $9,051,300

So let’s say the Steelers wanted to reward him, a contract that pays 10 million dollar a year would make Le’Veon Bell the highest paid Running Back in the NFL by almost 2  million dollars.

Now, this next calculation is the only way I see that Bell has any argument for asking for or expecting more than 10 million dollars. If we take his receiving production versus McCoy’s and use that as the multiplier you would come up with this.

Difference in receiving yardage (665 / 448) = 1.48 x $8,010,000 = 11,854,800 which coincidentally is in the range of what the Steelers are reported to have offered Bell.

This argument is really stretching it because Running Backs are PRIMARILY paid to RUN.

Bottom Line of the Bottom Line: The numbers say Bell is worth around 10 million based on rushing yardage. He is worth less if you base it on his averages. A contract of 12,000,000 would be generous on the part of Steelers. 13,000,000 would be a gift of out and out extravagance.

In no way is Le’Veon Bell worth anything close to $17,000,000 based on the numbers nor should the Steelers or any other NFL team pay him that.

The Silver Lining

Bell shows no sign of compromising on his unreasonable demands and the Steelers would be fools to pay him. His contract would also be a poison pill for the team’s salary cap.

It’s not too late for the Steelers to get something of value for Bell. They need to give James Conner, Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley and/or Quadree Henderson some playing time and see if they are getting something like equal production from them as a group. All they have to do is get four yards a carry and around eight yards a catch with comparable yardage to Bell split between them. If they get that they can shop Bell before the November 1st trade deadline. It would be nice to get something equivalent to a 1st round pick (or more) for Bell, rather than take the chance on what could only be a very late 3rd round compensatory pick at the highest in 2020.

Go Steelers!!!

Jeffrey Burton

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One Comment

  1. Mr. McBlitzface

    Somebody needs to send this to the Steelers brass… and Mr. Money Bags Bell.