The Raiders didn’t want to get in a bidding war for running back Le’Veon Bell and not signing him was a smart move for the organization.
Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers applied the franchise tag to Bell for the second time in as many seasons. Bell chose to sit out the season rather than risk an injury that could have potentially jeopardized the financial security that comes with signing a long term deal. After the Steelers let Bell become a free agent, he was linked to the Raiders, but ended up getting the long-term security he wanted by signing a four-year contract worth $52.5 million with the New York Jets.
Bell’s talent has never been in question and he would have definitely improved Oakland’s rushing offense in a beat. During his time in Pittsburgh, he showed he was the kind of player that could take over games as he ran the ball 1,229 times for 5,336 yards in 62 games. His impact as a receiver should not be underscored either as he can line up anywhere across the line of scrimmage. Head coach Jon Gruden could have found ways to integrate Bell’s skillset into an already dynamic offensive (at least in paper) that will feature newly acquired wide receivers Tyrell Williams and Antonio Brown.
Bell’s impact as a player wasn’t the reason why Oakland didn’t match the Jets offer. It probably had to do with the alternatives the team has at the running back position. There are players that haven’t signed with a team yet that might not be as good as Bell but aren’t as costly as he is and can perform decently. Moreover, running backs are known for having a short life span and can be “easily replaced.” The Raiders have the chance to select a running back with a mid-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and pay him a fraction of what they might have invested on Bell.
General Manager Mike Mayock has taken an aggressive approach this offseason and will spend money however he sees fit. Apparently, he deemed the running back position one that could be replenished via the second wave of free agency or the draft. Bell is probably worth the money he wanted and it would have been a good move to sign him. It’s just that Mayock saw better ways to improve the roster than paying a running back more than $10 million dollars a year for the next four years.