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Le’Veon Bell long-term contract “bar” with Steelers not set nearly as high as many believe

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Despite other reports, the odds Le’Veon Bell expects mind-blowing numbers from the Steelers are a bit off, in my opinion.

NFL: AFC Divisional-Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have until July 17th, not the 15th which falls on a weekend, to get a long-term contract done with All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. If they fail to do so, Bell has two options: Sign his franchise tag to play one year for $12 million dollars, or to hold out.

Most are speculating the Steelers will get a deal done with Bell before the deadline, but the biggest catch among those speculating is the cost of signing Bell to that long-term deal.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette penned an article a few weeks ago talking about just what Bell might be requesting, and he stated the talks might start at $12 million per year, the same cost for one year under the franchise tag.

The problem with Bell and the Steelers agreeing to a long-term contract is that starting point — $12.12 million guaranteed for one season. Bell, like Woodley, would no doubt take that annual average or somewhat less over four or five years.

But what would be the signing bonus/guarantees? Since he already is guaranteed $12.12 million, it would have to approach twice that in guarantees for a deal to get done, it would seem. If, say, Bell played under the one-year contract, the Steelers could franchise him again in 2018, but that would cost them 20 percent more or another guaranteed deal of around $14.5 million.

The biggest issue I have with this reasoning is the discrepancy between the franchise tag number and the highest paid running back in the NFL. Since the Minnesota Vikings released Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills is the new highest paid back, bringing in just over $8 million per year. Bouchette’s thoughts suggesting Bell requesting $12 million a year has a $4 million difference between McCoy and Bell’s apparent asking price.

Bell, like Antonio Brown before him, wants the recognition of being the highest paid player at the position. They want to know no one is making more than them at their respective position. It is just as much about ego, and image, as it is about years and overall cost of the contract.

If Bell goes to the negotiating table with the Steelers requesting $12 million a year, the Steelers response might be the following:

“Um, Le’ do remember the two suspensions, right? And the fact you haven’t played a full 16-game season since being drafted, right?”

Now, I’m not trying to downgrade the impact, and success, of Bell in the Steelers’ offense, but the negotiations likely will start lower than the $12 million Bouchette suggested. In my opinion, the Steelers want to make Bell the highest paid running back, and want to extend his stay in the Steel City for at least another 3 years.

In fact, my prediction for the Steelers deal to Bell is a 3-4 year deal, averaging $10 million a year and a nice $5 million signing bonus to influence the signing on the dotted line. As most contracts the Steelers offer, the deal will be back-loaded to facilitate the salary cap in the early years of the deal.

Signing Bell is certainly paramount for the Steelers, but at the right price. With that said, if you were to offer Bell a contract which you think is completely fair, what would it be? Let us know in the comment section below.