Colts Are Better Off Without Le'Veon Bell
After starting last season 1-5, the Colts won ten of their last eleven games in the regular season, clinching an AFC wildcard spot. The Colts would go on to beat division rival Houston on the road in the opening round of the NFL playoffs. Despite falling to reigning league MVP Patrick Maholmes and the Chiefs in the next round, the Colts have asserted themselves as a budding threat in the AFC for next season.
One player who would contribute immediately to the Colts for next season is former Steelers standout running back Le'Veon Bell. Bell sat out the entire 2018 season over a contract dispute with Pittsburgh, wanting more money per year. Bell understood at 27 years old, he only has so many more seasons left at peak level performance before an inevitable drop off at his position. Bell has been used excessively as both a ball carrier and receiver out of the backfield during his time in Pittsburgh. Having carried the ball more than 1,200 times and caught more than 300 passes in five seasons with the Steelers, he's had his fair share of work. This overuse has also been a contributing factor to a history of injuries that have limited his production.
The wear and tear Bell will face in the coming years has caused him to argue for more money from possible suitors this off-season. It's understandable why Bell would want to maximize the kind of cash he can earn in the NFL. The kind of contract he signs maintains his lifestyle and the enhances the lifestyles of his family. But in the pursuit of millions more in cash, Bell lost a year's salary and damaged his reputation, now seen as a selfish, money hungry drama queen. As talented as Bell is as a football player, the Colts are better off without him.
The Colts don't need Le'Veon Bell knowing the value of running backs has dropped in the NFL over recent years as a commodity to build a team around. The NFL is a passing league now with more value being placed on a quarterback and a quality left tackle before addressing the backfield. Bell is a dynamic receiving option, having over 2,600 receiving yards in just five NFL seasons. But running backs have a shorter shelf life than most positions and can be found later in the draft.
Paying a substantial amount of cash to a player who is already 27 years old, with a lot of mileage accumulated on his body is the wrong move for a young team like the Colts. If the Colts were one player away from being a certain Super Bowl contender, maybe then the investment makes sense. But with the amount of talented running backs available in later rounds each year, running back is a position where major money can't be invested.
Kareem Hunt, a multidimensional talent for the Chiefs before getting cut due to domestic violence issues, was a third round selection. Marlon Mack, who had more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season for the Colts was a 4th round selection. The Colts have also used multiple running backs in a balanced rotation. Between Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, and Nyheim Hines, the Colts had an assortment of options in the backfield last year. The every down back like Bell is a luxury, but not a necessity in today's NFL. The Colts would be better off investing in pieces that will prolong Andrew Luck's career and make winning easier for him in the future.
The Colts have solidified their offensive line allowing the fewest sacks in the NFL in 2018 with just 18 all of last year. This is a drastic transformation for a team who led the league with 56 sacks allowed in 2017, felt by backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett in Luck's injury riddled absence. Coming off of a major shoulder injury that forced Luck to miss all of the 2017 season, the focus should be to invest in pieces that will extend his career as long as possible.
The biggest reason to be thrilled about this improvement along the offensive line is what it means for quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck didn't take the kind of unholy beating he's taken in past years with the Colts, allowing him to showcase the kind of potential he projected as a young NFL talent.
The Colts would be better positioned to keep adding effective offensive lineman, physical wide receivers, dynamic defensive secondary options, and impact defensive lineman. Adding offensive lineman gives that position group depth and multiple options when injuries happen to keep Luck out of harms way.
Physical wide receivers are the opposite of what T.Y. Hilton has given Luck during their time together in Indianapolis. While Hilton is dynamic in the open field, his speed won't always be there as he ages. Hilton is also undersized and has been banged up during the last two seasons. Having additional targets that defenses must account for on the field will help Luck and Hilton be even more effective in future seasons. Finally, defensive improvements in the secondary and along the defensive line will not force Luck to score as many points to keep the Colts competitive.
As great as Le'Veon Bell is as a football player, he's not the right fit for the Colts. Bell at his position and age isn't the kind of on-field product worth investing in, at least at the number he wants. On top of the inflated price tag, Bell's self absorbed attitude over the last year doesn't help the Colts improve at the level other moves would this off-season.
The Colts don't need to invest significant cash in a player who will only last a few more seasons at a Pro Bowl level. The Colts will also avoid the off field drama Bell instigates by letting him sign with another team this off-season. Trust in Chris Ballard and his strategy of wanting to build a franchise on stability. The Chiefs team Indianapolis lost to last year was built in part due to Chris Ballard being part of that front office. Ballard left the Chiefs to confront the challenge of rebuilding the Colts.
A player like Le'Veon Bell brings a lot of excitement to a team. But the Colts are multiple pieces away from championship contention and would be better off investing elsewhere for right now. Leveraging a ton of cash for a toxic player like Bell at his depreciating position group is the wrong move, especially for a young team on the rise. It's a safe bet to assume the Colts are a budding threat in the AFC. It's also safe to say they will stay in that position with or without Le'Veon Bell next season.
Jimmy Kennedy, who believes the Colts are better off without Le'Veon Bell, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org