Daily Focus: How Adrian Peterson's contract affects Le'Veon Bell's value
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
How Adrian Peterson’s Contract is affecting Le’Veon Bell: It’s arguable that Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell is the best halfback in football (and I’d suggest that he is), but there is no doubt at all as to who the highest-paid is. Adrian Peterson’s contract dwarfs the numbers of every other back by a ridiculous margin.
[Editor’s note: Salaries from Over the Cap]
The obvious problem here is that Peterson is not that much better than any other halfback. In fact, his problems with pass protection and receiving (he was only on the field for 18 snaps on third down plays with more than five yards to go in 2015) and fumbles (most among backs) means it’s certainly worth asking if he’s even still a top-five back. According to the NFL players’ poll on NFL.com, he’s the fifth-best player in the league, but if that’s based on current ability (as opposed to, say, lifetime contribution) it does as much to discredit the list as anything else on it.
Against this backdrop, Bell has been, in my opinion at least, the best all-around back in the game. We graded him last year as the best runner, the ninth-best receiver, a top-20 pass blocker, and the best RB overall. It’s not as if this was a one-year anomaly either; in 2014, we had him rated second overall behind only Marshawn Lynch.
Clearly this leaves an issue. Bell rightly wants to be the best-paid back in football, but Peterson’s contract is so preposterously out of whack with the rest of the league that that type of deal would be unthinkable.
He certainly deserves more than LeSean McCoy’s $8 million per year number, but what is reasonable? Whatever he gets, it will set the new bench-mark, but will it be the type of contract J.J. Watt signed, where despite being the preeminent defensive player in the league, it was quickly overtaken? $10 million doesn’t feel like a bad compromise, but would it be enough to satisfy Bell and leave Peterson’s contract as simply an untidy outlier and a remnant of a different time?
What to make of the Packers’ TE situation: Unless you want to count Richard Rodgers’ late-season exploits for Green Bay (he was our 10th-rated receiving TE from Week 9 and on), the last time the Packers had a legitimate threat at tight end was in Jermichael Finley’s early years, before a bad case of the drops (14 percent of catchable balls in his last three years was the league’s worst in that time span) and eventual injury saw his demise.
Maybe there’s a glimmer of light in Wisconsin with Rodgers back for his third season, joined by former Titan and Ram, Jared Cook.
During the 2013 training camp, there were few players generating as much buzz as Cook on the back of his new $7.1 million per year contract, as well as his practice catches. Unfortunately, as soon as the real action started, he was average at best, and finally imploded in 2015, with a drop rate of 20.4 percent (worst in football), making Finley’s final years look almost sure-handed.
There is, however, no doubting his physical talents, and while the last season was disastrous, he did a reasonable job prior to 2015 with sub-optimal QB play. He also improved as a blocker during his time with the Rams, and with perhaps the best quarterback in football now throwing him the ball, there is some reason for optimism.
A combination of Richard Rodgers and Cook could just give Packer fans hope, but training camp will be key in determining how much.
Spencer Long or Shawn Lauvao to win Redskins LG position? It seems likely that Spencer Long, the Redskins’ incumbent at left guard after Shawn Lauvao was injured in Week 3 of last season, will be the favorite to retain his starting role—but some disagree. CSN Mid-Atlantic writer Tarik El-Bashir, for example, is in that camp, and while it feels unlikely, there is some reason for that.
After settling into his new role, Long proved to be an outstanding run-blocker with significant issues in pass protection. Lauvao has different attributes—last year aside, he has been a slightly above-average pass-protector and an inconsistent run-blocker who, at his best, never gained the heights Long achieved last year.
If this was not the passing league it is, this contest would be a no-brainer—the younger, better run-blocker would have a huge edge over the veteran who has so far been a superior pass-protector. However, while it still feels improbable, if Lauvao does win the starting job, this may well be the reason why.