As expected, the New Orleans Saints will not match the offer sheet that restricted free agent running back Mike Bell signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints won’t receive any draft pick compensation because Bell was an undrafted player who the Saints tendered at the lowest level.
Reports indicate the offer sheet was a one year contract for $1.7 million with $500,000 guaranteed and also included modest incentives as well as a no-trade clause. With a solid one-two punch of Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush and a desire to increase the role of third year power back Lynell Hamilton , the Saints decided against retaining Bell.
Bell is coming off a solid year in which he ran for 654 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games last season. He had success as a rookie in 2006 with Denver but bounced around the league in 2007 and 2008 before resurrecting his career in 2009.
In Philadelphia, Bell will provide another veteran presence behind LeSean McCoy and allow Leonard Weaver to concentrate on the fullback position. His acquisition reduces the likelihood of the team taking a running back in the rookie draft this year.
The biggest winner with Bell moving to Philadelphia is Pierre Thomas. With Bell off the roster, the short yardage and goal-line work will fall to either Thomas or Hamilton. Hamilton lacks Bell’s experience so there is now a greater likelihood of Thomas getting increased touches at the goal-line.
Thomas moves up to 15th in my running back rankings with an increased likelihood of a breakout season. He should be considered one of the more attractive mid-tier RB2's given his upside in the Saints offense.
Hamilton assumes Bell’s role in the offense but is unlikely to match Bell’s production from a year ago. Look for approximately 450 yards and 4-5 touchdowns from him.
In Philadelphia, Bell’s signing negatively impacts fullback and backup running back Leonard Weaver more than McCoy. Weaver figures to be relegated almost exclusively to fullback duties with Bell taking over in short yardage situations. Barring injury, Weaver is not worth owning except in leagues with deep rosters.
Bell is a proven short-yardage runner and figures to amass 500-600 yards and 5-6 touchdowns as part of a potent Eagles offense. The move is slightly negative for Bell from a fantasy perspective since he was expected to achieve similar production in New Orleans as he had last year.
The Saints run the ball far more frequently and effectively than the Eagles. While Bell’s touchdown production won’t suffer in Philadelphia, there is a risk that he won’t see enough carries to match his yardage total from 2009.