There will be no official word from the Pittsburgh Steelers about the numbers behind the contract offer they made to Le’Veon Bell on Monday, but that won’t stop those figures from becoming public knowledge. These details often have a mysterious habit of finding their way to an NFL reporter, someone who will happily share the information citing an unnamed league source to cover the individual or organization spilling the beans.
First this time with the rumored contract numbers is Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, a regular face when it comes to breaking these kinds of stories. If his figures are to be believed, it would appear that Bell has rejected another substantial offer.
From what I understand, the #Steelers’ final offer to RB Le’Veon Bell was 5 years, $70M with more than $30M over 2 years. Last year, the offer was 5 years, $60M. ... Instead, he’ll earn $14.5M on another franchise tag.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 16, 2018
$70 million over 5-years equates to an average of $14 million a year, part of a deal that also included $33 million in guarantees according to another report Rapoport shared later in the day. At this same time last year, the Steelers offered Bell $60 million over 5-years, but it would seem the proposed increase of $10 million over the length of the contract was not enough to get the deal done this time around.
With no word about the signing-bonus portion of the contract and how the deal was structured annually, it’s impossible to make a definitive judgment about the Steelers’ offer. However, it should be expected that the signing bonus would have been in the neighborhood of $19 million, considering Antonio Brown earned that same amount when he signed a 4-year extension worth $68 million in 2017.
It has been widely reported this offseason that Bell was unwilling to settle for a contract that paid him less than the franchise tag amount he was already due to earn, and there can be no dispute that Pittsburgh’s offer came in short of his $14.544 million minimum. Thus, it would be ridiculous to believe that Bell rejected the contract because it was off by $2.5 million over the length of the deal. Much more likely is that Bell was looking to earn closer to the $17 million per season that some in the media had suggested he was seeking, a number which even Bell had referenced at times, and also on a par with what Brown earns.
While many fans will blame Bell for the two sides’ inability to come to an agreement, it would be fair to say that neither is really at fault in this instance. The front office has a salary cap to balance and an entire roster to consider when signing extensions, and sometimes it can be difficult to accommodate so many superstars at one time. The mere existence of names like Ben Roethlisberger, Brown, Joe Haden, Cameron Heyward plus an expensive offensive line always meant that someone would lose out when their time came to get paid.
Understandably, Bell considers himself a once-in-a-generation talent at running back, a dual threat unlike any other given his talents as a pass catcher. In view of the contracts signed by underperforming names like wide receiver Sammy Watkins, a player who recently inked a deal worth an average of $16 million over three years with $30 million guaranteed, there can be no question that Bell has a point about his relative value.
Bell will find someone willing to pay him the money he’s looking for on the free-agent market in 2019, and it shouldn’t take him very long to find a new home. Steelers Nation can now only hope his expected holdout doesn’t drag on into the regular season.