Another year, another disappointing finish for the Green Bay Packers. The Cheeseheads will have to wait another season to see if quarterback Aaron Rodgers can lead the Packers back to the Promised Land. However, the truth is Packers have been missing a key piece of the puzzle for a long time.
The running back position is just as essential for an NFL offense now as it was during the 1960s. Today’s NFL teams need running backs that excel almost as much in the passing game as they do in the rushing game. That’s been a problem for the Green Bay Packers for years.
Soon to be former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is the perfect option for the Packers – if they can afford him.
Here are three reasons the Packers should take a long look at Bell this coming offseason in free agency.
3. Perfect Complement to Aaron Rodgers
It has been a long time since the Packers featured a 1,000-yard rusher. Eddie Lacy rushed for 1,139 yards during the Packers’ 12-4 campaign in 2014. That team scored 486 points and eventually lost 28-22 to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. Since then, the Packers haven’t been nearly as dominant.
There are several reasons for that, including offensive line struggles, secondary issues, and perhaps the most important one of all, a one-dimensional offense.
The Packers need help out of the backfield. Rodgers needs a true running back threat, and who better to offer that than Bell? Some fans will argue that Aaron Jones is that guy, but he’s never proven himself over a 16-game season. Nor has he stayed healthy.
Bell is one of the top three running backs in the league. Rodgers would thrive having a true running back threat working with him. Imagine how much more defenses would respect Rodgers using play-action with Bell in the backfield.
Bell remains one of the most dynamic running backs in the league. As a rusher, he is dangerous between the tackles and on the edges. His past run-ins with the NFL’s substance abuse policy seem to be the only thing that can stop him. Bell is a workhorse on the field. He led the NFL in carries (321) and compiled 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. Rodgers needs a running back like that in the lineup with him.
2. The Passing Game
Bell brings plenty to the table as a pure running back, but that’s not all he does. There is a reason the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense became a juggernaut between 2014 and 2017. Le’Veon Bell played a huge role in the development of the Steelers’ passing game.
Bell caught 312 passes for 2,660 yards and seven touchdowns during his Steelers’ career. He saved one of his best seasons for his last in Pittsburgh. Bell caught 85 passes for 655 yards and two touchdowns in 2017, which gave the Steelers a threat out of the backfield.
Opposing defenses stopped respecting the Packers’ running game a long time ago. Now they rarely fret about Green Bay running backs catching passes out of the backfield. The offense needs a player like Bell. He can draw defenders closer to the line of scrimmage and force them to pick their poison in coverage.
Green Bay already features a young receiving corps loaded with potential. Bell catching passes out of the backfield would help Davante Adams and the other receivers face fewer double teams. Zone corners would get caught looking into the backfield more than they already do. They would have to account for Bell in a way that they never worried about players like Eddie Lacy. Bell would breathe new life into a Packers offense that has grown stale in recent years.
1. They Can Afford Him
Green Bay rarely splurges in free agency. Instead, the Packers often rely on the draft to build their roster and often choose to pay their homegrown stars. However, the Packers do have $37.6 million available in cap space for 2019 as of December 21, 2018. Bell will likely command a contract similar to what the Los Angeles Rams gave running back Todd Gurley.
The Rams’ Pro Bowler inked a four-year extension worth $60 million, including $45 million guaranteed. If the Packers work the cap well this offseason, they can afford Bell. He’s worth it given the Packers’ struggles at the running back position for much of the past 15 years.
Green Bay doesn’t need to change their overall philosophy. It’s generally a good idea to build in the draft. The Packers did a solid job rebuilding their secondary through the draft earlier this year. However, when a player like Bell is out there, the Packers must take a shot. They won’t have Aaron Rodgers behind center forever.
The time is now to add a star that will transform the offense overnight.