Steelers Le’Veon Bell Stitched NFL Limited Rush Jersey

191Steelers preparing for future life without Le’Veon Bell Youth Le’Veon Bell Jersey

Le’Veon Bell’s uncertain future has forced the Steelers to prepare for life without him in 2018 and beyond. Bell and the Steelers have until July 16 to come to terms on a longterm deal before the start of the season. If they can’t, Bell will play under the franchise tag for a second consecutive year and will surely leave Pittsburgh in free agency next March. Bell will also miss this year’s training camp if he plays the 2018 season under the tag cheap youth jerseys.

To counter Bell’s training camp uncertainty, the team has re-signed veteran running back Stevan Ridley, who rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries during Pittsburgh’s final two games of the 2017 regular season. The 29-year-old Ridley looks like he has fully recovered after suffering a major knee injury during the 2014 season that limited him to just 39 carries during the 2015 and ’16 seasons.

Along with re-signing veteran running back/special teamer Fitzgerald Toussaint, Pittsburgh also drafted versatile H-back Jaylen Samuels, who gained 4,809 all-purpose yards and 47 touchdowns during his four seasons at NC State. Along with rushing for 1,107 yards and 28 touchdowns (while averaging 6.1 yards per carry) last season, Samuels also caught 201 passes for 1,851 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“He’s got decent speed, and he’s going to be able to function at this level,” Steelers’ running backs coach James Saxon said of Samuels, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Saxon added that Samuels will be in Pittsburgh’s running back room. “He’ll be able to play on third down. He’ll be able to catch the ball, create some matchup problems for linebackers. In this game today, a lot of teams are using six DB’s in the box to cover an athlete, and that’s what he is.”

Pittsburgh added another running back after the draft, signing Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin as an undrafted rookie. The 6’0, 225-pound Franklin rushed for a whopping 4,867 yards and 52 touchdowns in four seasons with the Broncos while averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

The Steelers also have running back James Conner, who is looking to have an even bigger impact in the offense after having just 32 carries as a rookie in 2017. Conner was the team’s third round pick in last year’s draft.

“There were a lot of ups and downs, but I had a lot of fun. It was a good year for me,” Conner told earlier this offseason  “I learned how to be a professional by seeing so many professionals work. Learning the basics of getting your mind and body ready for a game. The pounding it takes, the nutrition part of it. Working out, meetings, finding a routine. I have seen older guys do that and it helps them be successful.”

While none of these backs are as good as Bell, the Steelers have at least added depth, versatility, competition and depth to the running back position in case Bell skips training camp and isn’t ready to go at the start of the 2018 season. They have also laid down the ground work for 2019 if Bell and the Steelers aren’t able to come to terms on a longterm deal.

Agent’s Take: Will Le’Veon Bell save the RB market or is he overplaying his hand ?

Le’Veon Bell was born five to seven years too late to take advantage of market conditions favorable to running backs. If he’d had a rookie contract that expired in 2012, Bell would have been better positioned to leverage his outstanding production into a landmark contract. Instead, the 2013 second-round pick is in a much different financial climate for running backs .

Bell rejected a contract offer in 2017 that the NFL Players Association reportedly found appropriate as the mid-July deadline for franchise players to sign multi-year deals approached. Instead, Bell waited until a few days before the regular-season opener to sign his franchise tender.

Multiple reports initially put the offer in the $60 million neighborhood for five years. The reports differed on other details of the offer. There was $39 million to $42 million over the first three years. Bell recently confirmed to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the deal averaged $13.3 million per year. It’s unclear whether that was just for the first three years of the deal or over the entire five years. Bell alluded to needing $15 million per year in a rap song last year.

So, will Bell be able to reset and potentially save the running-back market? Is he overplaying his hand? Let’s take a look at what history and the numbers say.

Bell’s performance
Bell solidified his place as the game’s best dual-threat running back in 2017. He was third in the NFL with 1,291 rushing yards despite a sluggish start to the season due to him waiting so long to get under contract, as well as sitting out the season finale for precautionary measures with the playoffs looming. His 1,946 yards from scrimmage (combined rushing and receiving yards) were second most in the league. He also led running backs with 85 receptions.

Bell built upon a 2016 in which he validated his 2014 breakout campaign. He joined Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson as the only running backs to record at least 1,300 rushing yards (1,361) and 800 receiving yards (854) in the same season with his 2016 performance.

Bell also became the first player in NFL history to average at least 100 rushing yards per game (105.7) and 50 receiving yards per game (51.3) for a season. His 157 yards from scrimmage per game were the third best mark in an NFL season behind only Priest Holmes (163.4 in 2002) and O.J. Simpson (160.2 in 1975).

Bell is amassing yardage at a historic and unprecedented rate. His 129 yards from scrimmage per game are the most in NFL history (minimum of 50 career games). Hall of Famer Jim Brown is second with 125.5 per game. Nobody has ever been better at picking up yards during the first five seasons of their NFL career. Edgerrin James and Eric Dickerson are right behind Bell with 126 and 125.7 yards per game.

Recent developments
The Steelers designated Bell as an exclusive franchise player for a second-straight season at $14.544 million, which is a CBA-mandated 20-percent increase over his $12.12 million 2017 salary, after an agreement on a new contract couldn’t be reached by the Feb. 20 artificial deadline set by the parties. The Steelers reportedly had added money to the offer made in 2017 when negotiations picked up again this offseason. Feb. 20 was the first day teams could use the franchise or transition designation on players. The exclusive franchise tag prevents Bell from soliciting offer sheets from other teams.

Not surprisingly, Bell has increased his contract demands after continuing to demonstrate last season that he is the NFL’s most complete running back. He wants the same $17 million per year that wide receiver Antonio Brown got from the Steelers in a contract extension last year, according to the NFL Network.

Bell can make a legitimate case that he has transcended his position and should be compared to game’s highest-paid offensive playmakers instead of just running backs. This is because Bell is arguably the NFL’s most dangerous offensive weapon, thanks to his running ability and receiving skills.

General manager Kevin Colbert announced a couple of weeks ago at the NFL Annual Owners Meeting that talks were on hold to focus on more pressing matters: free agency and the NFL draft. He indicated that talks would eventually resume before the July 16 long-term deal deadline for franchise players. Bell plans on taking the same approach as last year absent a long-term deal. The willingness to pay Bell $26.664 million over two years with franchise tags suggests that the Steelers should be comfortable paying him in neighborhood of $13.5 million per year on a long-term deal.

The pinnacle of RB salaries
Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson took running-back salaries to a new level in 2011 after several years of stagnation by signing deals that put them among the NFL’s five highest-paid non-quarterbacks. Johnson signed a four-year extension with the Titans averaging $13,493,750 per year and containing $30 million in guarantees after a lengthy preseason holdout. Peterson received a six-year, $85.28 million extension, which included $36 million in guarantees and an additional $4 million in base salary escalators, from the Vikings.

Running back compensation reached a peak in 2012, when the number of players with veteran contracts averaging at least $7 million per year jumped from five in 2011 to 11 in 2012. Currently, there are only three ball carriers at or above the $7 million threshold.

The chart below highlights the decline at the top of the veteran running-back market since its high-water mark by looking at the average of the top five running back long-term contracts in a couple of basic metrics.


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