Oakland Raiders: Todd Gurley is the reason we can’t have nice things

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 12: Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stiff arms Jon Bostic #57 of the Indianapolis Colts during the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 12: Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stiff arms Jon Bostic #57 of the Indianapolis Colts during the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders will have a dire need for a running back next season, but the Rams just ensured they won’t be getting one marquee name.

The Oakland Raiders have a problem. Or, at least, they are going to have a problem in the not too distant future.

We already know that neither Jalen Richard, nor DeAndre Washington can be the team’s bellcow back. Marshawn Lynch will likely be done following the season. And unless Doug Martin has some sort of magical rejuvenation and a career renaissance, he may not be back either.

Of course, there’s always Chris Warren III floating around, but we haven’t heard much from him just yet and it would be a bit of a shocker if he wound on the 53-man roster to start the season.

More from Las Vegas Raiders News

All of that to say, when the calendar turns to 2019, the Raiders very well may have a big hole in the backfield that is going to need to be addressed.

Of course, with the news that Pittsburgh Steelers standout Le’Veon Bell not signing a long-term deal with the team that drafted him back in 2013, calls for Reggie McKenzie to get his checkbook ready started to emanate from certain corners of the Raider Nation.

And why not? Bell is one of the best – not the best – backs in the game.

In five seasons with Pittsburgh, Bell has racked up 5,336 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns. He’s added another 2,660 yards and seven touchdowns catching passes out of the backfield. For five seasons now, Bell has been one of the most potent offensive threats in the league.

But, there’s no chance in hell he’s coming to the Raiders. The Los Angeles Rams and Todd Gurley pretty much saw to that.

It was announced earlier today that the Rams and Gurley had agreed to a contract extension – four years worth $60 million dollars, with $45 million of that in guaranteed money.

Now, obviously we don’t yet know the details or how it’s all structured. And we won’t know anything for certain until more information is released. What we do know though, is that the devil is in the details when it comes to contracts and guaranteed money.

What we also know is that Gurley’s deal is likely going to be the basement floor of what Bell is going to be looking for when he hits the open market next season. That is, assuming the Steelers don’t do the unthinkable and pay the exorbitant price of tagging him for a second straight season

Related Story: Stacking Up The Tight Ends In The AFC West

Which means, that it’s a pretty safe bet that come next March, Bell is going to be a free agent.

And as much as many fans around the Raider Nation are going to clamor for McKenzie and Jon Gruden to bring Bell into the fold, the reality of the salary cap, plus money they’re already going to have committed to various players, is very likely, going to make that a non-starter.

Given his accomplishments on the field, as well as his not-so-outlandish belief that he is the best back in the game, there’s also very little doubt that Bell is going to want to top Gurley’s contract, which would put his annual salary north of $15 million a year.

And he’s got the bona fides to make the demand – he has more first team All-Pro selections (three) than Gurley (two). He’s also been to more Pro Bowls (three) than Gurley (two).

With a body of work through the regular season – and the playoffs – that tops Gurley’s body of work, it stands to reason that Bell is going to want to be paid in accordance with that.

The simple economics aside for a moment, you need to look at another factor when determining whether or not Gruden and McKenzie should commit that kind of money to Bell – and that’s the wear and tear on his body over his first five seasons in the league.

They say running backs only have so many carries in their legs before their bodies begin to break down and their production begins to decline. Over his first five years, Bell has averaged 245 carries a season, with a career high 321 in 2017 – a figure that led the NFL by a wide margin.

And you can expect, knowing that he’s likely not going to be back in Pittsburgh next year, that Mike Tomlin and the Steelers will be riding Bell as hard as they can this season. He very well could equal, if not exceed, that gaudy 321carries last season.

Assuming he does go over 300 carries for a second straight season – and why would he not? – it’s fair to wonder that when he hits the open market next season, how many carries he has left in those legs?

While it’s true that he’ll be just 26-years old next February, after a second straight year – and, more to the point, what will make a sixth season of very heavy usage – is it worth investing well north of $15 million a year at the risk of having that wear and tear finally break him down?

Especially when there are solid cheaper options to be had. For instance, Bryce Love will be in next year’s draft, as will a number of other solid prospects like L.J. Scott or Damien Harris.

Or, if Gruden wanted to go the veteran route, there will likely be some solid options on the open market as well. Options who won’t cost the mint Bell is going to demand the minute the free agency window opens.

The Raiders are going to have a ton of money tied up in guys like Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, maybe Amari Cooper, and hopefully sooner, rather than later, Khalil Mack.

As the old saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And if Gruden and McKenzie really wanted to take a run at Bell, they could likely find some way to massage the numbers enough to get him under the cap.

Next: Papa Believes Loyalty Cost Him His Job

And although Bell is an explosive playmaker and can add a ton to an offense, it’s simply not worth mortgaging the future by overextending on salaries for a few, and not having the money to solidify the supporting cast around the team’s foundation pieces.

The idea of Bell coming to Oakland was probably always nothing more than a pipe dream. Hopefully, seeing what Gurley is now getting paid – and knowing what Bell will likely demand – puts a pin in it once and for all.