It is July, which means football is right around the corner. July 27th the Pittsburgh Steelers report to Latrobe, PA for another training camp. Although we still have a few weeks of the “dog days” of the NFL offseason, it doesn’t mean there isn’t news to still be discussed.
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We don’t know if running back Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers are going to get a deal done by today’s 4 p.m. deadline for long-term contracts for franchise-tagged players.
And we don’t know if he’s planning to show up for the start of training camp without one.
What we seem to know at the moment is that he’s well enough to play, whenever he decides to.
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, Bell is recovered from offseason core muscle surgery, and should be ready to participate from the start of camp. If he’s there.
Bell had surgery in March, so he ought to be ready by now. He’s only played 18 games the last two seasons, and has dealt with foot and knee injuries also (as well as a suspension), so the Steelers have reason to be a little cautious.
Bell never signed his $12.1 million tender, which means he’s not subject to fines if he doesn’t show up for training camp. And without a new contract, there’s always the chance he might not.
(Published Monday, before the deadline came and went)
It’s easy (but hardly cheap) to determine the basic parameters of a long-term deal with the franchise tag as the starting point. In Pittsburgh, it may not be easy to structure it that way for running back Le’Veon Bell.
The Steelers like to pay out all fully-guaranteed money in the first year, with none of the money guaranteed in year two. For example, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger received his full $31 million guarantee in the form of a signing bonus. Ditto for receiver Antonio Brown, who has no guarantees beyond his $19 million signing bonus.
For Bell, the standard franchise-tag formula calls for his $12.1 million franchise tender for 2017 plus a 20-percent raise for 2018 ($14.52 million) to be fully guaranteed at signing. That’s $26.62 million in full guarantees. Given the way the Steelers do business, that means a signing bonus of at least $25 million.
And that may be more than the Steelers are willing to do for a running back. So then the question becomes whether Bell will accept some other structure (for example, $15 million paid out in 2017 and another $11 million or so in injury-only guarantees for next year) or whether he’ll say, “Screw it. I’ll take $12.1 million this year and either a 20-percent raise or a shot at the market next year.”
Both Kirk Cousins and Trumaine Johnson have demonstrated for all players the value of going year to year. For Bell, a year-to-year game of tag for two years gets him to $26.62 million. The question becomes what alternative amount or structure he’d accept to have a longer-term deal in Pittsburgh.
Since the Steelers don’t want to fully guarantee money beyond year one of any long-term deal, what’s the point of any multi-year contract with the team? If any player should be willing to seriously consider going year-to-year, then, it’s a player in Pittsburgh.
Who is your football mentor or inspiration? I would say my biggest mentor is probably my cousin Gerald Sensabaugh. We grew up together. He played in the league for eight years. He retired from the Cowboys in 2013, so I would say him. He taught me how to become a better football player, a better man, I am going to be a father, how to be that, how to be a better husband. All around just how to be a better human being. We grew up together so just to see his maturation was big for me.
What motivates you? Being the best I can be and leaving a legacy for my family.
What is your approach to football? To do whatever it takes to win and to maximize what God has blessed me with to be the best I can be on and off the field.
Why do you play football? I love it. It’s something I grew up doing. I feel like it kept me out of a lot of trouble. It showed me the world. I met a ton of people that I will have relationships forever because of this game. It changed my life forever.
When did you start to dream about playing in the NFL? It became a dream for me when my first cousin, Teddy Gaines, he was the first family member I saw make it to the NFL. I was eight or nine years old. When I saw it, it became a goal for me. He was the first one in our family to make it in the NFL.
What is it like to have other family members who played in the NFL? It shows you that anything is possible. I am big on visualizing. I never thought it was possible until I saw somebody else do it. Then I saw another cousin do it. It just made it that much more realistic for me. I knew I could do it if I did all of the things they did right.
What is your proudest football moment or memory? Winning the ACC Championship at Clemson. We were the first team to do it since 1981. Obviously now they won a few more ACC Championships and the National Championship. Hopefully I will change that moment this year with the Steelers winning the Super Bowl.
When you hear Steelers, what do you think? Dominance. It’s America’s team in my opinion. Everywhere I go I see Steelers shirts, hats, and things on cars. Everywhere I go I see Steelers stuff.