We’ve all been there. Looking at the menu at one of our favorite restaurants and we face a conundrum.
What do I want?
You have narrowed the choices down to two entrees, but they both sound delicious.
Do you go ahead and order both and look like a pig? Your wife will probably get upset if you did. The kids need to eat too, and you really can't afford the extra cost of the second entree, so you pick one but dream about what might have been.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Le'Veon Bell find themselves in a similar situation this off-season. Can they really have it all, or will they have to meet somewhere in the middle?
For the Steelers, the main question is whether they pay now or pay later. Or do they go in another direction altogether? You just paid Bell more than $12 million dollars this past season to play on the franchise tag. You really didn't have much of a choice in the matter. After he refused your multi-year contract offer to be the highest paid running back in the league, you couldn't just let him sign with someone else and get nothing in return.
Your franchise quarterback was talking possible retirement in the near future and the window to hoist another Super Bowl trophy could be closing sooner than expected. Your decision made perfect sense, but now you’re right back where you started.
Do you make the same decision to franchise-tag him again for one more season, or have circumstances changed enough since last off-season to make you rethink the situation?
A new Offensive Coordinator has quelled some of Ben's retirement talk, which is great, but the Ryan Shazier injury definitely changes things. Shazier's speed and penchant to make impact plays was masking some serious holes in the Steelers’ defense. Will the Steelers be able to fill those holes via the draft and free agency if they pay Bell what he’s asking for, or will they have to patch up the holes on defense as best they can and hope for the best?
Setting his off-field issues aside for a moment, did the team get what they paid for this past season? Was his performance head and shoulders above all the other running backs in the league, as his salary would demand? A player's real value lies in what he’s worth to the organization as a whole. Is it worth it to overpay one player if it severely hampers your efforts to maintain your talent levels at other positions across the board? Is it wise to put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, and gamble on the present to possibly forsake the near future?
Just ask the Colts (Andrew Luck) or the Ravens (Joe Flacco) how that worked out for them.
Bell says he’s trying to set the proverbial salary bar for his fellow running-back brethren, as he feels the position is undervalued across the league, which might be commendable, but let's look at his actual team for a moment.
What about the Steelers’ organization, his teammates and the fan base? What do they all deserve? We’re all members of the Steelers’ family. The team that drafted him and stuck by him through all of the injuries and—at best—questionable off-field decisions. Bell must decide if it’s more important for him to get a maximum deal and set the market moving upwards for his position, or sign an offer similar to last year's rejected one to stay with the Steelers and leave them with enough salary-cap flexibility to strengthen the defense and maintain their perennial status of Super Bowl contender.
Needless to say, these decisions will impact the Steelers greatly, not just this upcoming season but for many years thereafter!
So remember—no pressure guys, but you really do need to make your decision soon. I think I see the waiter coming!