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Le’veon Bell bet on himself, and lost big

Le'Veon Ball pinky
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL does not value running backs the same way it values other premier positions. Especially not running backs who have plenty of wear and tear on their bodies. That’s something Le’Veon Bell found out the hard way.

After sitting out the entire 2018 season, losing out on $14.4 million in guaranteed money, Bell reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with the New York Jets worth $52.5 million.

That’s a lot of money to be sure. Yet it doesn’t come close to what Bell was hoping to get, and had been pushing for going all the way back to 2017.

Meanwhile, his old teammate Antonio Brown will reportedly earn more than $19 million per year in Oakland after a winter of talking trash about Pittsburgh.

Even worse for Bell, he reportedly turned down a massive five-year deal from Pittsburgh last summer worth $70 million. Reportedly, it would have earned working roughly $20 million in 2019 and and included roughly $33 million in the first two years.

Bell was hoping to break the mold. He wanted to create a new market for NFL running backs and assert his power as a superstar in this league. Yet when it was all said and done, he ended up taking less than he could have gotten a year earlier.

Adding insult to injury, this occurred in a year when other free agents who aren’t at the top of their position are landing record deals left and right.

The big issue, of course, is what we mentioned at the top: Bell is a 27-year-old running back. And in the NFL, you can find incredibly productive running backs in all rounds of the draft, and they come cheap.

In the end, Bell lost more than just $14.4 million, and any additional money he might have gotten from Pittsburgh in a long-term deal. He lost the battle against the machine that is the NFL, proving once and for all that running backs will continue to be viewed as second-tier citizens in the realm of financial priorities.