If Le’Veon Bell played last year, the Steelers would have won the Super Bowl. They missed the playoffs by half a game and they surely could have made up that ground with the added production of a transcendent running back. They already beat New England and should’ve beaten New Orleans in the dome, so I think it’s safe to say they were less than one additional hall of famer away from going all the way.
When that (short-lived) narrative of James Conner being better Bell circulated around, it was more a testament to fantasy’s popularity than it is a reflection of truth. This summer, the hogwash topic d’jour is the analytical deep dive into the growing consensus that all running backs are all the same and worthless. My personal favorite is this FiveThirtyEight dude saying Royce Freeman, Isaiah Crowell, and Alfred Morris (lol) are just as good as Zeke. Apparently, 350 touches from a hall of fame talent is easily replaceable by minimum cost role players. Is it possible we are overthinking this here? I love analytics just as much as anyone around, but football will never be a numbers game. Sample size and controlled variables are elementary requirements to sound statistical studies, and you will never get those from an NFL season.
“You don’t have to have a rushing champion to win a Super Bowl” says Jerry Jones in some very naked posturing. Well you also won’t win Super Bowls with receiving champions if you wanna go by all these statistical factoids. The simple truth is all Super Bowl participants have been strong in all facets of the game, with their most overbearing strengths being MVP quarterbacks or dominant defenses. The teams that succeed via the latter predicate their offenses around the run game.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say our running back who’s won two out of three rushing titles and makes every aspect of our team better is worth the money. We might as well pay him now too while he’s younger. The timing works out perfectly to fairly compensate him when he’s in the beginning of his prime and then play hardball when he’s at the end.
The Cowboys have $24 million in cap space right now with another $14M coming off the books next year between Tyrone Crawford and La’el Collins alone. There’s enough room to match the Gurley contract for Zeke and still match top dollar to three of the four of Dak, Amari, Byron Jones, and Jaylon Smith. Hell, there might be enough to pay all four if the cap rises a ton with the new CBA.
This is a nice healthy holdout for both sides for the time being – it’s early. Once push comes to shove, the Cowboys aren’t going to fuck this up like the Steelers did. Zeke will get his money and then he’ll be getting lifetime rights to a faucet of even more money come February when he’s holding up Lombardi #6 for America’s Team.