The $15M question: How will Le’Veon Bell do in free agency?

“I think if he is productive, then maybe [he gets] around where he is making this year,” the exec said. “I think his year will really dictate what he gets. Think people won’t really focus on what he has done in the past but rather just this year.”

Teams generally stay cautious with numbers this time of year, especially with running backs. Some agents, however, predict that Bell will blow the roof off the market with at least $16 million per year.

“Whatever he wants,” said one veteran agent with direct experience with the franchise tag. “He’s a rarity. No one ever like him. Ultra special.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Although no one disputes Bell’s talent, some NFL evaluators aren’t sold on a sustained running back market at Gurley’s value. One exec called the Gurley deal — which includes $21.95 million guaranteed — a “total outlier” for now, acknowledging that Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson will have their impact.

“I think he does well … but if he’s really thinking about the $16 million number, that won’t be what people [in the league] are thinking about,” one exec said.5

Another exec added: “I’m not sure with that workload and history that he gets as much [as Gurley].”

Another factor is the fact that the final two years of Gurley’s rookie contract are blended into his four-year extension, which creates an average payout of $11.57 million per year. Some teams could try to use that against Bell.

However, former Washington Redskins salary cap analyst and Priority Sports agent J.I. Halsell said Bell is in a sweet spot regardless. He has proved to be an elite playmaker, and Halsell predicts that at least one team will pay Bell in excess of $15 million per year.

Having the cash to spend is no problem. Six NFL teams entered 2018 free agency with at least $60 million in cap space.

“Assuming he’s healthy, as productive as he’s been historically, he’ll have multiple suitors,” Halsell said. “Gurley has established what an elite playmaking running back market is. That’s Le’Veon’s floor — maybe not in every aspect, but he should be able to get to free agency and get that in guarantees.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“If you’re a team like the Detroit Lions that hasn’t had running back production in recent years and you need an elite player to get over the hump, then you pay that money.”

The wild card is the Steelers, who have options to retain Bell. The Steelers likely will consider placing the $17.8 million transition tag on Bell, which would allow Bell to negotiate with other teams but would give the Steelers the right to match. They would lose the compensatory pick due to them if Bell left in free agency outright, but they could try to parlay a draft pick out of the team that offered Bell a deal to match.