Deal or No Deal
Our favorite running back from the 2018 season has finally found a new home with the New York Jets. Le’Veon Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with $35 million guaranteed and an average annual salary of $13,125,000 via Spotrac.com. The maximum value of the contract is $61 million. So was the holdout and the year missed all worth it for Bell in the end?
If you remember, Bell refused a five-year $70 million contract with $33 million guaranteed. That’s about $14 million per year. Bell had reportedly wanted to be paid $17 million to $20 million per season and that is not the case with the Jets deal. He is making less money per year with the Jets than he would have made with the Steelers’ contract last year. The only thing that is more with the Jets is the guaranteed money by a $2 million in favor of the Jets’ contract.
If Bell’s goal was to become the highest paid running back in the NFL, he fell just short. According to Spotrac, Todd Gurley’s $57.5 million contract still makes him the richest running back in the NFL. Gurley’s injury down the stretch also probably scared general managers from offering anything higher to Bell than the Gurley contract. Everybody saw Gurley get hurt, and then see the Rams still find success in running the ball behind C.J. Anderson who was cut twice during the 2018 season.
Le’veon Bell Fantasy 2019
The Bell signing in New York helps nobody more than quarterback Sam Darnold. Bell is a dynamic running back who excels exceptionally in the passing game. Bell has played in three seasons where he has had at least 75 receptions. The Jets’ offense last season? Robby Anderson led the team with 50 receptions. The Jets have not had a player with more than 75 receptions since 2015 when both Brandon Marshall (109) and Eric Decker (80) achieved that stat. The Jets should utilize Bell’s skills in the passing game which will give him an edge in fantasy football. The Jets last season actually targeted the RB position (96 targets, 20.8%), more than the Steelers did in both 2017 (109 targets, 19.6%), and 2016 (118 targets, 21.3%). Without Bell in 2018, the Steelers ranked fourth-lowest in RB target percentage (15.6%) and 13th-lowest in total RB targets (98 targets.) Source: FantasyPros.com NFL Targets By Team.
But according to the Matthew Berry of ESPN, Adam Gase has not particularly kind to pass-catching running backs specifically in the passing game in terms of total volume. Every season outside of 2013 with Peyton Manning offense Gase’s teams have always ranked 20th or worse in passing attempts to the RB position. However, last season even though the total targets ranked 20th the percentage of targets to the RB position overall was high relative to the rest of the NFL. 23.7% of the total targets for Miami last year went to the RB position. That ranked 10th highest last season. The low total targets are more attributed to the slower paced offense Miami had run under Gase over the last few seasons.
The other factor that also works in Bell’s favor is his non-reliance on touchdowns throughout his career. It’s not a bold stance to say that the Jets will have less scoring opportunities then the Steeler would have, but Bell was not scoring at a high rate anyway. He’s never had double-digit rushing touchdowns and Gase has a history of not giving carries to his RBs in the red zone. However, despite all those factors Gase has still helped produced an average of the RB12 over the last six seasons. Via FFStatistics.com, since 2013 the top-running back under Gase finished as the overall RB4, RB11, RB7, RB11, RB26, and RB14. From an initial standpoint here in March, Bell fits the mold of a mid-tier RB1 entering the 2019 fantasy football season.
How Bell Influences Remaining Jets
The signing of Bell directly influenced the fantasy stock of Isaiah Crowell, who has been released by the team. Keep in mind the talent gap between Crowell and Bell. Now realize Crowell averaged 4.8 yards/carry last year with the Jets.
Robby Anderson will most likely benefit from Bell opening things underneath, but Bell will most likely cannibalize targets from receivers running underneath routes like Jamison Crowder and Quincy Enunwa.
The biggest hit, that the Bell signing brings, however, is for the tight end, Chris Herndon. He played very well down the stretch last season, but we have seen in the past between a running back that catches passes and a productive tight end. There’s actually a slight negative correlation between the two. Especially in team target market share to the position. For example, we saw Ezekiel Elliott soar in the passing game a year after Jason Witten retired. I don’t think that was a coincidence. Or that Kareem Hunt averaged 3 targets per game in an offense that featured arguably the best tight end in Travis Kelce. So if it’s between Bell and Herndon competing for targets, I will ring the Bell. Sorry, Chris!
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