Everyone seems to have an opinion about the contract offer the Pittsburgh Steelers made to Le’Veon Bell last Monday, but very few of those commenting have any real understanding of the true value of the deal and the way business is actually done in the NFL. While many in the media seem to be under the impression that Bell will find a whole host of suitors willing to pay his asking price when he hits free agency in 2019, some informed voices out there also have their doubts.
Before Joel Corry became a member of the media with the National Football Post and later with CBSSports, he was a sports agent for 16 years. From negotiating deals for some of the biggest stars in the NFL, Corry now reports on them, and offers a level of insight into the world of league business that few in the media can match.
As a guest of Matt Chernoff on his NBCSports podcast “Opening Drive” released on Saturday, Corry shared his thoughts about the Steelers’ latest offer to their star running back and expressed doubts that Bell would find the huge contract he was looking for on the open market. As he told Chernoff.
“I’m skeptical. First he has to get through the year healthy, because if he has some sort of major injury, the big payday’s probably going out the window. And then, we’ll see whether that whole DeMarco Murray thing comes into play again. If he’s heavily used this season which, if Pittsburgh thinks they’re going to lose him, they’re likely to do — not necessarily overloading him with touches to the detriment of everything else, but they won’t have any qualms about running him into the ground, whether through carries or receptions.”
“When DeMarco Murray came up a few years ago in free agency after a phenomenal contract year, teams were concerned about how running backs have historically performed after heavy usage years. It only takes one team to view Le’Veon Bell the way he views himself, and if one team does that, then he’s going to break the bank, but we are long way off to seeing whether that happens and I’m in the ... call me a doubting Thomas.”
As it turns out, NFL teams were wise to be concerned about Murray’s usage. Despite signing a sizeable free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles worth an average of $8.4 million, he would be traded to the Tennessee Titans just a year later following a disappointing debut season with the Eagles that saw him rush for just 702 yards.
If Bell really does have his best season to date, he might ultimately find the resulting wear and tear on his body will cost him money down the road. Failing to achieve that mark due to injury or because he’s showing signs of wearing down will only limit his appeal in free agency.
But as long as there are teams like the New York Jets or Cleveland Browns that have shown a complete disregard for common sense when it comes to player contracts, there’s always a chance Bell will find the money he desires. But there’s an equally strong possibility that the deal the Steelers’ star running back just rejected is the best he’ll ever see.