Le'Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The New York Jets dished the money out to Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley, but it does it line up with recent salary-cap NFL success?

Robby Sabo

To many onlookers, dishing out big bucks to a free agent running back is a sin so unforgivable discussing it would waste valuable time. The New York Jets pulled off the feat this past offseason when they signed Le’Veon Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million deal ($27 million guaranteed).

But the prior day, March 12, they did something that totally redeemed themselves. The Jets added defensive quarterback C.J. Mosley.

While the on-the-field football addicts were signing Mike Maccagnan’s praises, the salary-cap nerds threw themselves into a tizzy.

Between Bell and Mosley, a total of $68 million in guarantees were suddenly on the books. This means a running back and inside linebacker, two of the more famed devalued positions in the NFL during the rigors of the new cap system, become focal points of the depth chart.

ESNY has chronicled the running back problem many times prior. Super Bowl champs usually destroy the narrative that paying backs top-dollar works in the end.

Super Bowl champs (Average salary):

Super Bowl Runner-Ups (Average salary):

Todd Gurley‘s presence in last February’s Super Bowl helps squash the narrative, but, in all, look at the champs; these organizations don’t believe in paying backs.

The nature of the position is completely reliant upon another unit. The offensive line drives everything. It’s the first, most critical aspect for running back success. The quarterback comes second. Bell can, no doubt, make an impact and the lift the play of the Jets shaky O-line, but by no means can that lift equal the other direction.

Inside linebacker is less stark, yet telling.

Super Bowl champs (Average salary):

Super Bowl Runner-Ups (Average salary):

The Rams employed Alec Ogletree in 2017 prior to his Giants arrival. His salary equaled the third-highest at the position in the league. Losing the now-Giant happened immediately prior to Sean McVay’s squad winning the NFC title.

The 2012 49ers actually employed two of the top three inside linebacker salaries (Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman). Some teams showcased high-priced players, but most used value at the position.

When combining the two, nothing compares to the Jets situation:

  • Le’Veon Bell: 2nd, $13.1M
  • C.J. Mosley: 1st, $17M

Of the Super Bowl champs and runner ups, the 2015 Panthers come the closest: Kuechly’s first-ranked salary and Stewart’s eighth-ranked dollar number.

When dealing with non-Super Bowl teams, again, it’s tough to find anything that duplicates the Jets RB/ILB situation. Carolina still has Kuechly, but Christian McCaffrey is still on his rookie deal.

The closest team right now are the New York Giants. Employing Ogletree’s fifth-ranked ILB salary and Saquon Barkley‘s sixth-ranked running back average payout is as close as it gets for 2019. It’s not exactly the kind of company the Jets would like to keep at the moment.

The Arizona Cardinals are the next closest, employing David Johnson (ranked third) and Jordan Hicks (ranked 10th). Again, not exactly what we want to see. On top of that, Avery Williamson‘s $7.5 million salary places him 11th.

A year ago, the Rams provide the Jets hope. Gurley’s highest-paid salary coupled with Mark Barron‘s sixth-place ranking helped bring the team to the big game (although the back didn’t really help in January).

The very same year (2017), the Panthers lost the big game with a similar model. Kuechly led his position in money while Stewart ranked third, and this is the closest example to the Jets there is. They finished 11-5.

There is hope. What else could the Jets do with that giant pile of cash this past offseason? Without the proper development of picks, no youngsters needed big paydays. If there was ever a time to break the devalued position mold, it was now, before Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold need that dough.

It’s usually never smart to dish out big bucks to either position (not to mention both at the same time), but it’s not a backbreaker for a squad craving young talent. When comparing Adam Gase’s cap situation to the most common championship model, it doesn’t add up. The offensive line, edge rusher and cornerback (with a recent emergence from strong safety) remain the most important salary-cap figures, especially when the stud quarterback is still working on his rookie deal.

The additions of Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley doesn’t equate to the apocalypse. Both vets will immediately help in areas that somewhat needed help entering the season.

What important is this: the strategy just doesn’t equal recent salary-cap championship success save for a couple of runner-up instances.

Robby Sabo is a co-founder, CEO and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor - Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. SEO: XL Media. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (Sold in 2020). SEO: XL Media. Email: robby.sabo[at]jetsxfactor.com