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Analyzing the rejected contract offer from the Steelers to Le’Veon Bell

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As was the case last year, the contract offer from the Steelers to Le’Veon Bell was released to the media after the proceedings. We now try to decipher the details of the offer.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The misinformation coming out from Ian Rapoport is baffling. He’s the only reporter who has come out with any information regarding the details of Le’Veon Bell’s rejected contract. Therefore, we have no one else to compare his information with.

On Monday, Rapoport came out with figures that riled Steelers Nation and swamped the BTSC boards. Then on Tuesday he came out with a confusing tweet which no doubt left many scratching their heads. How does one discern information that’s incomplete, confusing, and contradictory?

That is a valid question.

The above video shows Rapoport trying to explain the offer, and below is the follow-up tweet with some more details for Steelers fans to chew on.

So what do these tweets mean?

Is the $10 million signing bonus the only guaranteed money in his contract besides the first year? If that’s the case, how could Bell not take such a low signing bonus as a slap in the face? By comparison, Devonta Freeman’s 2017 contract extension included a $15 million signing bonus to go along with his $22 million in guarantees. A puny sum to give to a three-time Pro Bowler?

Rapaport mentions $33 million guaranteed in the attached video — did that change too? It appears so. The wording is confusing in the second tweet but the item which strikes me the hardest is his use of “in a rolling guaranteed structure. $45M over the first 3 years.”

Rolling guarantees kick in after a season has completed, and the new league year starts in March. Language in the contract triggers the next contract year to become fully guaranteed. Future years would be unaffected. The “first 3 years” sticks out like a sore thumb. Is it just for the third year? The lingo brings me to the conclusion that it’s also for the second year. This would mean Pittsburgh stuck to its practice of not guaranteeing a contract beyond the first year for players who are not quarterbacks. For the $33 million to be a legitimate number, Bell would be scheduled to earn $23 million in base salary to go along with the amazing signing bonus in 2018, right?

The above tweets are wonky, but readers can gather a few things from them. Apparently, $33 million is the figure for two years. The third year is worth $12 million, while the last two years total up to $25 million. How does such a contract play out on paper?

The projected contract

First two years: $33 million which included the $10 million signing bonus.

2018

$12 million base

$2.5 million prorated bonus

2019 (Becomes fully guaranteed early in March 2019)

$6 million base

$5 million roster bonus (Colbert has been sticking the roster bonuses in almost all new contracts.)

$2.5 million prorated bonus

Third year: $12 million brings the total to $45 million.

2020: Becomes fully guaranteed early in March 2020

$12M million base

$2.5 million prorated bonus

Fourth and fifth year: $12.5 million per year average.

2021

$12.5 million base

$2.5 million prorated bonus

2022

$12.5 million base

$2.5 million prorated bonus

...

The reported contract structure is similar to the one Tom Pelissero reported the Steelers offered Bell in 2017. The only real difference is Pittsburgh gave Bell a $10 million pay bump.

The offer Bell turned down is still an unknown. We do not know how those first two years were structured, or what percent of guaranteed money is included in the deal. Rappaport’s report cannot be taken at face value if fans are to believe Bell and the Steelers were close to completing a deal.

Could a deal have been close with a $10 million signing bonus?

Hopefully Rapoport gets his story straight, or one side leaks more information. Until then, BTSC readers will only be able to speculate, grumble and ponder life without Bell. That is unless he signs next spring, the Steelers franchise tag him again or use the transition tag on him.