Landry Locker: I have my reservations about Houston Texans signing running back Le'Veon Bell

Examples of running backs falling off after they got paid

Landry Locker
February 22, 2019 - 9:40 am

© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of people including my co-host, the OG John Lopez, want the Texans to sign running back Le’Veon Bell when NFL free agency begins in less than three weeks.

I have my reservations for many reasons:

1. Finding running backs that make immediate impacts can happen through the draft and this year’s running back class in stacked.

Immediate impact RB’s taken at the 3rd round or later in the last eight seasons:

2018: Royce Freeman
2017: Alvin Kamara (3rd), Kareem Hunt (3rd)
2016: Jordan Howard (5th)
2015: David Johnson (3rd), Jay Ajayi (5th)
2014: Devonta Freeman (4th)
2013: Latavius Murray (6th)
2012: Alfred Morris (6th)
2011: DeMarco Murray (3rd)

2. I think the Texans should use their cap space to improve on other, well-documented, areas of need.

3. I question if Le’Veon Bell will be the player he was before he sat out an entire season for multiple reasons including usage, system fit and desire to play after getting paid.

If you guaranteed me that I’d get the same Le’Veon Bell we’ve seen the last five seasons then I’d 100% be on-board, but the running back position is hard to evaluate because the shelf-life is so small and more times than not, for multiple reasons, running backs falloff after they receive big contracts. Below is Bell’s age, usage and other notes along with backs around the same age who fell off (for multiple reasons) after they got paid. 

Le’Veon Bell: 27-years-old (5 seasons and one year sitting out):

  • 1,541 touches (1,229 carries, 312 catches)

  •  Missed 17 games (7 for suspension)

    • MCL In 2015

    • Groin issues

Larry Johnson: (27-years-old, four seasons, backup first two):

  • 989 touches (892 carries, 97 catches)

  • Signed for six-years, $45 million with $19 million in guaranteed money in 2007, the largest contract in history.

  • 3,539 yards rushing the two years before, 1,251 the two years after and was off the Chiefs after two seasons.

DeMarco Murray: (27-years-old, 4 seasons):

  • 1,105 touches (934 carries, 171)

  • Five-year $42 million contract

  • Lasted one year

Chris Johnson: (26-years-old, three seasons):

  • 1,062 touches (925 carries, 137 catches)

  • Four-year, $53.5 million contract extension in 2011 through to the 2016 season, including $30 million guaranteed

  • Consistent falloff after: The two least productive career and 3 of the 4.

    • 3 seasons before: 5,606 total yards (4,598, 1,008)

    • 3 seasons after: 4,349 total yards (3,367, 982)

Jamaal Charles: (28-years-old, six seasons, backup early in career):

  • 1,295 touches (1,043, 262)

  • 2-year $18.1 million extension in 2014. (Season-ending ACL injury in 2011, Two All-Pro seasons after)

  • One 1,000 yard season after his contract in three years, injuries the two others.


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