In 2017, when Le’Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers faced a very similar situation with the franchise tag and the almost inevitable outcome you didn’t hear much from Bell himself. There were reports and rumors, but nothing more until Bell turned down a reported contract and was forced to play 2017 under the franchise tag.
But that was last year.
This year, facing the same uncertainty, Bell decided to talk to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, and boy did he ever share some details.
What first popped off the screen first was Bell admitting, and sharing, the details of the 2017 contract offer he rejected.
Bell, 26, confirmed last year he turned down a contract worth $42 million over the first three years and an average of $13.3 million over the life of the deal. Even his mom wanted him to sign it. Bell almost did.
Since then, the Steelers are closer but not quite where Bell wants them to be with an offer -- though Bell adds both sides are negotiating in earnest.
A pretty hefty deal which he turned down, and when most fans read this they will probably wonder what Bell is looking for? And what makes him think he is deserving of such a ransom from the Steelers’ organization?
Bell actually outlined his criteria, and reasoning, behind his contract demands:
Asked about his criteria for assessing that worth, Bell explained:
+ He’s putting up more yards per game than any NFL player (his career average of 128.9 yards from scrimmage per game is the best since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger).
+ He plays every down and basically fills the role of three backs.
+ His presence keeps the defense off guard because he can line up anywhere on any play, “causing constant mismatches every single down,” he said.
+ He’s an elite pass-blocker and No. 2 receiver.
+ The Steelers are undefeated when he gets 25 or more carries.
+ His game will age well because he makes plays not solely off athleticism, but “with my mind.”
While this may come off as selfish and conceited, Bell just wants paid according to what he feels he is owed. But don’t for a second take Bell for just a dumb jock listening to his agent. No, Bell understands the situation, and understands who is signing the checks at the end of the day.
“I’m the one to bet on myself. And I’ll do it again,” Bell said. “I understand how the Steelers do contracts. Last year, I was pounding the table on guaranteed money. That’s not the case. If I’m not getting guaranteed money, I want a lot more up front. ... It’s year-to-year with the Steelers. Essentially if I sign a four- or five-year deal, I’m playing four or five franchise tags.
”Earlier I said I felt we would get one done, and this year we are a lot closer than last year. In good spirit, I feel we can get something done. But unless something drastic changes, it won’t be [this week].”
When the dust settles, Bell feels he is being painted into a corner with players like LeSean McCoy and Devonta Freeman, but Bell’s personal value is far more than anyone else in the NFL.
“They are using it as me being compared to another running back or my status or what Devonta Freeman has. I can’t control what he’s done on the field,” Bell said. “I only can control what I think I’m worth and what I’ve done on the field. That’s where the problem lies. ‘Freeman’s making this, we can’t give you this.’ ... To me, that’s not fair. I didn’t sign Devonta’s deal. That’s the position I’m in. I want to make my own decision.”
Some, myself included, wondered what would come of Bell’s statements he made last season before the playoffs when he talked about walking away and retiring before he played under another franchise tag, and, according to Fowler, he meant it.
“I just have to decide if I’m going to play when the time comes,” Bell said.
Later Monday evening, Bell took to social media to calm down some of the fan base clamoring to find out what lies ahead for Bell.
Pittsburgh: the city that took in a 21-year old kid from small-town Ohio, the city I battled thru adversity in, the city that I became a man in. I love everything about being a Pittsburgh Steeler, and I want nothing more than to finish the rest of my career in Pitt! #26Forever pic.twitter.com/mhs2ikpK71— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) March 6, 2018
Take that for what it’s worth, but it doesn’t look like this story is even close to being over anytime soon. In fact, this thing is just getting started...again.