Veteran Running Backs
Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

Veteran Running Backs Who Are Currently Unemployed This 2021 Season

Veteran running backs Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley have failed to land a spot on an NFL roster for the upcoming 2021-22 season.

Both free agents played for the team they were drafted to for five years until their careers started plummeting to the position they are both in today… jobless, in search of an NFL team. Missing several games — whether it be a whole season to get right mentally or due to a straining injury throughout the season — slims NFL players’ chance to be trusted on the field. NFL teams prioritize certainty and focus primarily on players’ playing time, stats, and performance in previous seasons to determine their future in the NFL. Unfortunately, Bell and Gurley’s performances in recent years have created a distaste in several teams’ mouths, especially when both show how their ego is bigger than their careers.

Le’Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell is known for his performance during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. During three of his seasons, he was averaging 1,200 yards or higher with about 4 to 4.9 yards per carry. In 2018, Bell would have received $14.5 million under a franchise tag if he chose not to sit out from playing that season.

“The year that I came back… it felt like I was a rookie all over again. I was so excited to get back on the field, get my gatherings back. I don’t know, it kind of like reset my body,” Bell said.

“I feel like it’s going to help me for the end of my career, elongate my career.”

VIA NFL

Bell taking a break from the NFL may have helped him mentally prepare for another season, but ultimately, it did hurt his career in the long run. In 2019, he signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with New York Jets. When he rushed an underwhelming amount of yards that season with 789, the team waived Bell after two games into the second year of his four-year contract. Bell said play-calling was the reason why he had low stats playing for the Jets.

Once he was waived by the Jets, he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020. Since Clyde Edwards-Helaire was one of the starting running backs for the 2020 season, Bell received a career-low of 328 yards with only two touchdowns. He also posted an Instagram post criticizing Chiefs’ head coach, Andy Reid.

“I’d never play for Andy Reid again … I’d retire first.”

VIA BLEACHER REPORT

Bell quickly turning to blame head coaches for his low career stats is only making himself look worse. He should understand, especially after the Chiefs’ decision not to utilize him in games, that he needs to step up and perform at his best to be chosen as a starter. Bell is stuck in the mindset that he was the starter for the Steelers for five years and assumed that taking a year off would allow him to automatically take a seat at the table of new, faster running backs. But that was evidently not practical, with hungry running backs ready to prove why they were drafted or signed with an NFL team.

Todd Gurley

Gurley was also arguably one of the best running backs at the beginning of his career up until a few years ago. During three of his seasons, he averaged about 1,100 to 1,300 yards with about 4.7 to 4.9 yards per carry.

In July 2018, Gurley signed a 4-year, $60 million contract extension to play for the Rams, making him the highest-paid running back in the NFL. But Gurley suffered arthritis in his knee originally caused by an ACL tear in college. This made his stats dropped drastically in 2019. Gurley went from averaging 4.9 yards per carry and receiving a total of 1,251 yards in 2018 to averaging 3.8 yards per carry and receiving a total of 857 yards in 2019. The Rams released Gurley immediately after the 2019 season.

Although the Atlanta Falcons signed Gurley to play during the 2020 season, they only offered him a one-year contract and did not offer him an extension. A lack of faith in how healthy his knee is explains why Gurley is receiving little to no offers from NFL teams.

Despite Gurley’s steady decline, he was asked to visit the Baltimore Ravens during their offseason. Josina Anderson reported that although Gurley had a good meeting with the Baltimore Ravens, he left without a deal. This coldheartedly sounds as if Gurley was looking for a better contract offer when he should have signed with the Ravens in June.

Both veteran running backs haven’t even hit their 30’s yet and are already struggling to find a team this NFL season. It’s the second week of the preseason, and neither one of these running backs are on a team’s roster. To think it was only a few years ago when everyone wanted these two running backs to be traded to their teams. Fast forward to the present day, and no one is claiming either running back or even talking about them, for that matter. Every since each running back stopped playing for the original team they were drafted to, it has been a steep decline in both men’s careers. It may be time for both veteran running backs to hang up their jerseys and cleats for good.

Trey actually called it first. He knew Todd Gurley’s time in the NFL was over nearly eight months ago. Read his article above to find out why.

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