THIS time of year is always one filled with excitement. After months of hibernating NFL journo’s can come out and report relevant football news again as NFL training camps commence. One talking point is always the ‘no-shows’ on day one of camp and as expected Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell was a notable absence. His contract situation seems set to hang over Pittsburgh’s head for at least another 12 months as the front office faces the tough decision regarding the halfback’s future.
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IF a monster contract extension was going to be signed this offseason, everyone in their right mind would have assumed that deal was going to have Le’Veon Bell’s signature on it. Instead, his positional peer Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams was the one cashing in. Now to set a few things straight, while Gurley’s extension is for four years at $60 million, he is still set to make about three million and nine million over the next two seasons. So as a matter of fact, Gurley’s entire contract is now worth about $12 million annually and will stretch over a six-year span.
THAT extension alone could open the floodgates for a bunch of other players. Bell isn’t the only other guy holding out with stars like Aaron Donald (Rams, DT), Julio Jones (Falcons, WR) and Earl Thomas (Seahawks, FS) also skipping the start of camp. Jones has since come to an agreement with Atlanta and should report soon enough, but GM’s around the league might start to become more lenient when it comes to paying non-QB’s serious money.
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THERE is still a long way to go in that debate and some players might still be forced to wait for their deals. One thing is for sure, Gurley deserved his payday and Bell deserves one too. Now the (literal) million dollar question is what number makes all parties involved happy?
BOTH sides have failed to negotiate a deal they are thrilled with so far. Bell apparently wants a deal worth around $17 million annually, which in the modern NFL would be an absurd amount of money to pay a non-quarterback. However, the 3x Pro Bowler might be worth it. Bell’s argument is that he should be paid as a running back and as a receiver, after all the help he contributes in the passing game. It’s hard to argue with him as the numbers back up his requests. In 2017, Bell had more targets than Tyreek Hill, Amari Cooper and Gronk, while chalking up more receiving yards than Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins and teammate Martavis Bryant.
HOWEVER, to request such a high payday is a bit unrealistic from Bell. Pittsburgh’s latest offer is reportedly in the area of five years, $70 million, a far cry from the $17 million Bell wants annually. Guaranteed money was a major snag in the latest offer from the Steelers and upping the confirmed $$$ amount might lead to a peaceful resolution. I have my doubts.
IT would be understandable if Pittsburgh got cold feet about paying a player because of their injury history and unfortunately for Bell, he doesn’t have the greatest resume of staying on the field. An MCL tear in 2015 and a handful of suspensions from misdemeanours might scare off the Steelers from really spending big on Bell. I understand their scepticism, but I don’t think it should have that much impact. Since injuring his knee, Bell hasn’t missed a beat as a lot of his game relies on technique, not athleticism. This is a plus for teams looking at Bell long term as his style of play could potentially age well. Could.
LE’VEON Bell and his agent continue to state that Pittsburgh is looking at paying the position instead of paying the player. As I said above, Bell wants a bigger piece of the pie considering how much extra he does to benefit the team on the field. When you think about it though, he has already received a payday edging towards what he wants. Set to play a second consecutive season under the franchise tag, Bell will make $14.5 million this season after making a hair over $12 mil in 2017.
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FOR the second straight season, Bell seems set to skip all of training camp and he could be in for a longer stint on the sidelines if he chooses to put his foot down. Adam Schefter said this week that he believes it’s very possible Bell sits out half the season in an effort to stay healthy and hit next year’s free agency at full strength. Under current law, Bell could sit out until the 13th of November and there’s nothing really that Pittsburgh could do about it. It would mean he could lose a bunch of money though. Bell would miss out on roughly $850K a week, which could add up to $8.5 million if he does follow through on his threat and sit out until Week 10.
WOULD I rule out a team paying Bell his $17 million annual quota, or hell, a team making him a $100 million dollar man? Absolutely not. Would I want to be the one to pay Bell his $17 million annual quota? HELL no. Do I think that team will be the Steelers? Also a HELL no. Kevin Colbert and all of Pittsburgh’s people will be eager to lock down Bell, but I think he is just asking for too much. In a sport where there are 53 players on the roster, asking a team to pay a non-QB nearly 10% of the entire salary cap isn’t realistic. There could be a time where RB’s get that type of money, for sure. That time isn’t now though and all signs point to a blunt divorce between Bell and the Steelers in 2019.
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