A week ago at 4 p.m. ET, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell failed to agree to terms on a long-term contract extension. Instead, Bell will be playing the 2017 season under the one-year franchise tag.
When the news broke, and Bell tweeted, and snap chatted and instagrammed how he “needs to get better”, the fan base was riled up. They wanted No. 26 in a black and gold uniform for years to come, but despite a deal not getting done, it is hardly the end of the world, from a football perspective.
And here is why:
First, the finances of the situation can work out for both parties.
Bell is essentially playing on a one-year “show me” deal. For a player who racks up nearly 2,000 yards on a shortened season, the show me aspect of this deal refers to can he stay clean, not suspended, and healthy, as he has yet to play a full NFL season since being drafted in 2013.
If Bell plays well, and by well I mean his usual production throughout a full season, he could be rewarded handsomely for his efforts. He could get a long-term deal from the moment the 2017 season ends, he could be given a franchise tag designation for the second straight season or would get top-dollar as an unrestricted free agent on the open market.
For the Steelers, if Bell gets injured again, or suspended, it will severely decrease Bell’s overall asking price, and could make their decision to keep, or release, Bell much easier. With the franchise tag, there is no dead money following the one season of work. In other words, if Bell injures his knee at the end of the season, the Steelers could cut ties with the running back and not owe him another dime.
It might sound cruel, but the NFL is a cruel business.
After the finances, the rest of this scenario comes down to flat out production. As stated before, if Bell isn’t as dynamic as he was during his rookie contract, gets injured or is handed another suspension, the Steelers could reap the benefits of his misfortune. And don’t think the shelf life of modern-day NFL running backs doesn’t weigh into this equation either.
If Bell is able to pick up where he left off, in terms of production, his value will only increase, essentially getting him more money one way or another.
The Steelers would owe Bell over $14 million dollars for one year if they decide to place another franchise tag on him in 2018, and that is some serious cash for one year of service.
Either way you look at it, in my opinion, Bell and the Steelers not coming to terms on a deal isn’t the end of the world. In fact, some might say it works out well for both parties.
I talk about this more in-depth on the latest Steelers Connection podcast. You can hear the podcast HERE.