Le’Veon Bell is a cautionary tale for Josh Jacobs.
A solid back with a good Pittsburgh Steelers team in the last decade, he became half the player he was with the New York Jets. After a season in which he led the NFL in carries, he held out, barely doing in 3 years what he had done in one.
Bell got paid but went to an offense that couldn’t use him as a main back because the production was not there. Gaining 60 yards on the ground in Week 1 turned out to be his 6th highest total of 2019. No 100-yard games, as his high was 87 yards in a Week 14 loss to Baltimore. Even his high water mark of 10 catches came in a loss (Week 2).
John Riggins is both a cautionary tale and a dream candidate.
Riggins liked to hold out and was almost ahead of his time in that fashion. He held out in 1973 when he was a member of the New York Jets. He came back before the season started, but dropped from 944 yards rushing in 1972, to 482 in 1973, not good. He also held out before his last year in 1985, but his age and declining numbers don’t matter for this story.
The one that may matter to Jacobs is 1980. After having two 1,000+ rushing yard seasons for Washington in 1978 and 1979, he held out and missed 1980. When he came back in 1981, that total dropped from 1,153 yards to 714. However, he rebounded with the Super Bowl strike season of 1982, followed by two really good years in 1983 and 1984. It shows that even with a runner as talented as Riggins, there was still a regression each time he held out. Eventually, he was able to regain some of the lost skills and make his repeated holdouts pay off.
So this means that Jacobs could eventually rebound, with 2025 better than 2024 if he skips 2023. Would this save some wear and tear on his body? The thoughts on this are mixed because even though Jacobs led the league in rushing with 1,653 yards, this is only year five for him in the NFL. Bell was 26 years old, entering year six, while Riggins was 31, entering year 10, and Jacobs is just 25 years old.
Sitting out won’t hurt him as much as it did Bell, but he would be better off being traded to a team that uses him like peak Derrick Henry. That would probably take some years off the back end of his career but gives him the chance to be the focal point of the offense.
Can he get a big role and get paid? That is a big question. All of the teams that seemingly would want Jacobs are the ones that already have a question on whether they can pay their running backs as their starting roles may open up.
Another thing that will affect him is where Dalvin Cook and Zeke Elliott end up. One can assume that they will go to potential playoff teams. Does Jacobs want the money so bad that he would accept a trade to the Cardinals, a bad team that needs him, or the Panthers, who probably aren’t much different than the Raiders?
Josh Jacobs has fewer ideal options than he may realize.