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Athletes and their worth

author: : jacob nelson | staff writer


Money makes the world go ‘round / Jack Kurzenknabe via Flickr

Players be getting paid

Le’Veon Bell is in the news once again, but this time it is not because he had a record-setting game, or once again is at the top of the league in rushing. No, he has managed to decline every Pittsburgh Steelers contract offer that has been sent his way. Bell decided it was time for him to make a stand.

The 26-year-old from Ohio has declined upward of $50 million in order to guarantee the highest-paid, long-term contract the NFL has ever seen for a running back. But why? I mean he has just been offered enough money to live multiple lifetimes with, an yet he still declined. Its because Bell wants the league to recognize a running back’s value added to the game, and he wants the league to compensate running backs comparable to that value added.

“Le’Veon Bell wants $17 million a year… he wants to be paid exactly what Antonio Brown is paid,” stated Kevin Colbert, the General Manager for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That statement was made before the NFL draft even started. We are now past the halfway point in the NFL season, and the most recent offer sent to Bell has been turned down, which means Bell not only forfeits $14 million this year in salary, but will also not step on the field at all for the rest of the season.

So how will this play out for both parties? We are already seeing the effects on both sides. The Steelers have arguably not felt any negative impact on the playing field from Bell’s absence. With the breakout performance of James Connor, who has seen more success at this point in the season than Le’Veon Bell has seen in even his best season. The high-powered offence lead by Ben Roethlisberger has proven this season that they are indeed payoff contenders and even without Bell, they can still put up 50+ points a game.

This is what makes Bell’s argument a little harder to accept. Because Bell is basing his argument on the idea that running backs are as integral a position as a quarterback or a wide receiver. However, we have seen numerous times over that that is not the case. Substituting running backs has become the norm in the NFL. A team using two main backs in their system is commonplace right now. We see it in offences like Detroit, Chicago, Jacksonville, New England, etc. and it seems to be working out for most of them.

We have also seen the exact same situation play out only a few years ago in Dallas when DeMarco Murray stepped into the limelight for the Cowboys. Because of their high-powered offensive lineman, Murray was able to rush his way to the top of the league and almost break the 2000-yard rushing mark. Because of this he felt he was worth a ton of money and instead of remaining in Dallas, he decided to take his “talent” elsewhere for more money. After a short stint with the Eagles, and now a partial role with the Titans, Murray is now a forgotten name in the world of running backs.

So, does Bell actually have an argument? His refusal to play has basically backfired on him, as James Connor, who has never started a game in the NFL, is doing a better job than he ever did. Who would pay a running back $17 million a year if his backup is doing better than him?

But it is also true that running backs have forever been used as workhorses, and then left broken in the end. Teams will pay a running back on short-term contracts just so they can milk hundreds of carries from them a year, and then drop them after they’ve gotten all the worth out of that back.

However, taking our attention away from just running backs, let’s look at some other athletes who felt they deserved better, and how their careers turned out. Kam Chancellor, a safety for the Seattle Seahawks, held out in 2013, due to his peers in similar positions being signed for enormous amounts of money and Chancellor seeing none of it. The hold-out eventually ended when Chancellor “caved in,” said Andrew Brandt of the MMQB.

JaMarcus Russel, the infamous Raiders quarterback, held out before he even played a down in the NFL. The first-round draft pick in 2007 held out until the team was willing to sign him for a $68 million-dollar deal. Arguably one of the biggest blow ups in the NFL, Russel’s career fizzled out quicker than he was able to put pen to paper.

Glenn Robinson was the former first-overall pick in the 1994 NBA draft, and felt that title should earn him $100 million before even touching the court. He eventually settled for $68 million over 10 years. While he did have a solid career in the NBA, players and fans to this day are still unsure if that $68 million was worth it to the Bucks.

So, for years, players have fought for more money. The rare occasion would see it play out well, but for the most part, the big money guarantees leave the team broke and the players laughing.  It is simple argument to state that running backs take the biggest hits on the field and are dealt the most damage. Bell, who is 26 years old in his position, doesn’t see much production left in his career lifespan, and simply wants to get the best deal possible for the next few years in order to live out the rest of his life as financially comfortable as possible. He has had an incredible bout thus far with the Steelers, so I hope his quest for money doesn’t put a black mark on what could still be a Hall of Fame career.

About Jacob Nelson

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