When it comes to free agency, or really any discussion about player priority, it is understandable that the quarterback position always hogs the top end of the discussion. For example, if there is a decent quarterback who is slated to become a free agent, then he is going to be talked about as the most desirable player on the market.
That is why it is no surprise that the top three players on Pro Football Focus’ list of the top 15 pending free agents for the 2018 offseason are all quarterbacks. Washington’s quarterback, Kirk Cousins, who has been playing under the franchise tag for the past couple of years, sits on top, but he is followed by Jimmy Garoppolo and then Drew Brees.
But the fourth player on the list—the first player from a position other than quarterback—is quite a familiar name in Le’Veon Bell, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-round draft pick from 2013, who has been their starting running back since then and has been to the Pro Bowl three times in that span.
Finding himself falling in between the high and low points of the running back market, following a couple of high-profile releases, Bell hit his free agency offseason being slapped with a franchise tag of over $12 million that put his salary substantially above any other running back.
But he is looking for even more than that per year, and if tagged again, he will make about $15 million this year. The Steelers are already in contract negotiations with him and the sides have set an artificial deadline of late February, when the franchise tag can be applied, to get it done.
Writing about the pending free agent, Mark Chichester notes, ”at the halfway point of the season, it seemed highly improbable that the Steelers would part ways with the versatile playmaker, but as we further we approach the offseason, it seems more and more apparent that Bell and the Steelers are heading for divorce”.
That may or may not be accurate, but I digress. We will see. He goes on:
“Since 2015, Bell has logged 2,030 offensive snaps, more than any other running back in the league, and he’s averaged 2.89 yards after contact per rushing attempt, the third-best mark among backs with at least 1,000 attempts in that span. He also averaged 1.36 yards per route run which is the 21st-best mark among running backs with at least 100 targets and all told, he’s combined to force a total of 150 missed tackles, which is the league’s second-best total”.
More to the point, Bell has comfortably averaged more yards per game than any player in the league since he has been drafted, hovering around 130 yards from scrimmage. He has rushed for 5336 career yards on the ground and has added 2660 through the air, giving him over 8000 yards from scrimmage in his career. He became the fastest player to reach that career mark, doing so in 62 games. Eric Dickerson previously owned the record, hitting the mark in 64 games.