The value of the running back is declining – better yet, collapsing, and Le’Veon Bell has no idea why.
“Those guys literally do everything for the team,” Bell said to Fox News Digital.
It has become pretty apparent that teams do not need a superstar running back to win a Super Bowl – the Kansas City Chiefs won it all back in February with seventh-round pick Isiah Pacheco.
However, Bell just wants the market to be fair.
“I just don’t think it’s fair for the running back market to kind of be, like, so devalued the way it is,” Bell says. “Running backs, guys like Saquon [Barkley] and Josh Jacobs…those guys obviously taking the bulk of the carries, they’re blocking, they’re protecting the quarterback that’s getting the millions of dollars, then you got us running routes out of the backfield, so you put us against linebackers and safeties creating mismatches for the quarterback. And not only that, we split out, too. We in the slot, or the outside receiver, and they say [after] all that, you’re the least valued on the offense.”
“I just want to know what makes sense, what’s the logical explanation about what makes this position devalued,” Bell added. “What exactly is it? They’re getting the ball the most, they’re blocking the most, we’re running routes.”
Bell continued explaining how much running backs really do when they are on the gridiron, as opposed to receivers, who are able to take some running plays off.
“Receivers can get the ball three, four times a game. Some games, not even get it,” Bell said. “They might have a game where they might have 12 catches, 191 yards. There might be one game like that. There’s other games you got three catches for 40 yards, six catches for 71 yards. You’re just getting the ball four, five times a game. You can do that s— forever. You can do that s— for 20 years. Running backs, you get it 20 times, 25 times, 30 times, four or five times in a row.
“I’m not getting on no receivers. I love receivers! But let me just say this… Usually when we run the ball, receivers just out there bullsh—in’. They just out there just running, they out doing nothing. When we pass the ball…running backs don’t get to rest! No. We’re either running a route or we’re blocking. We ain’t resting out there. The only time we’re resting is when we’re out of the game. If we’re in the game, we’re doing something…
“So you’re not about to sit here and tell me out of every position that the running back is the least valued one. That’s crazy to me. That blows my mind. Someone has to explain that to me, and I’ll argue this with anybody. Anybody who wants to argue with me about the devaluing of the position is crazy. Y’all have never played the position. Y’all don’t really know what the running back goes through.”
Bell said he had a feeling this was going to happen given his previous situation. Bell signed the franchise tag with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017, but refused to sign it in 2018. Thus, he sat out the entire season.
However, he did not expect to see the day when the kickers average salary would be larger than the running backs.
“You’re saying the guy who has four, five, six plays the entire game is worth more than the running back? Don’t get me wrong, kickers are still worth it, because they still get points. I’m not saying kickers are not valuable, but come on, bro,” Bell said.
Bell also noted how two running backs were taken in the top-12 of this past NFL Draft in Bijan Robinson (8th to Atlanta) and Jahmyr Gibbs (12th to Detroit).
“You ain’t seeing kickers go top-12,” he said.
Veteran running backs like Austin Ekeler, Barkley and others have set up group chats and Zoom calls to discuss ways to combat their depleting value. Bell said he does not want to reach out to anyone, but did offer an idea.
“After the first year, they should be able to renegotiate a contract,” Bell says. “That first year, I ran for 1,500 yards, or I ran for 1,200 yards my rookie year – let’s renegotiate.”
His idea stems from the fact that running backs can be worn down as early as their very first NFL snap.
“If you’re coming into the league as a rookie, and the team invests in you, draft a running back first round, they’re already monitoring and using you the right way,” says Bell. “They’ll be giving you [the ball] 25, 30 times a game, and they don’t plan on paying you after.
“If I’m a rookie, and they’re asking me to carry the ball 20-25 times a game, I’m not gonna tell the coach no. I’m young, I want to win the game, and I want the ball. We do this for two, three years, we’re winning games, y’all using us.”
Another argument for running backs and their declining market is that they may seem easily replaceable, but Bell thinks the same can be said for other positions – including the quarterback.
“The [San Francisco] 49ers just made it to the NFC Championship with three quarterbacks. If that third-string quarterback [in Brock Purdy] don’t get hurt, they might win the game! Everybody just losing sight. All that third-string quarterback had to do is just turn around hand it off to the running back. The O-line, they’re gonna block, they’re gonna move guys off the ball, they’re gonna execute, and the running back is gonna get two or five yards, move the chains with the running game. Then we can set up a little play action, roll out, throw the ball in the flat, and get a first down. That’s all the 49ers did. Their offense was so damn simple. They was dinking-and-dunking the whole time. Running the ball. Third-string quarterback. It don’t really matter. Unless you got Patrick Mahomes, it’s (not) gonna be hard to replace him.
“All GMs said Lamar Jackson, but s—, they put in Snoop [Huntley], and it was the same! It was like, damn, you can substitute a quarterback, too!”
“At some point,” Bell says, “it just needs to be fair.”