No doubt Bell has come under fire for his stubbornness (some would say greediness) with regards to his handling of contract negotiations after having the franchise tag placed on him by his employer—the Pittsburgh Steelers—for the second year in a row.
Last August, after Bell and Pittsburgh couldn't reach a deal all throughout the spring and summer, word surfaced that Bell had turned down a five-year contract, which would have paid him roughly $30 million over the first two seasons.
That news, coming on the heels of his decision to skip all of training camp, along with the slower than desired start to the 2017 campaign (and let's not forget the rap songs, and all those other goofy things he does on social media), didn't exactly endear Bell to the fan base.
Moving on to this year, and more reasons Bell has failed to endear himself to the fans, such as an interview he did last week with ESPN Steelers beat writer Jeremy Fowler in-which he said, among other things, "We're not coming to a number we agree on—they are too low, or I guess they feel I'm too high. I'm playing for strictly my value to the team. That's what I'm asking. I don't think I should settle for anything less than what I'm valued at."
Right now, according to how the market is set for the top free agent running backs, Bell's value for the 2018 season is $14.5 million, which he will earn this year by simply signing the franchise tag.
What Bell said was quite logical—why should he settle for less than the value of a franchise tag that limits his ability to test the open market?
Of course, while logical, this does nothing to make the average fan want to go out and buy a No. 26 jersey anytime soon (unless it's to throw darts at it—or burn it).
Speaking of fans, like the one from Seahawks Nation who burned a Richard Sherman jersey after Seattle released him, and he signed with the bitterest of rivals—the 49ers—Pittsburgh could have very easily given fans that same opportunity by allowing Bell to sign with just about anyone—maybe even the Ravens.
And this is what makes it kind of puzzling that people want to put 100 percent of the blame on Bell for this.
Last year, Bell's tag was worth $12 million, making him the highest paid running back in the league by roughly $4 million. People had a problem with this, Bell earning so much more money than the second-highest paid back.
And this year, even if Bell comes down to Pittsburgh's reported offer that will pay him $13 million a season, his compensation will pretty much lap the LeSean McCoy's of the world.
For the past two seasons, the Steelers could have set Bell free and allowed him to determine his own worth on the open market. But instead of that, they deemed him valuable enough to pay him $26.5 million in guaranteed money.
Pittsburgh is utilizing the system that was negotiated by both sides in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, and whether you like it or not, so is Bell.
Perhaps Bell should come down a bit in his demands and give the Steelers a hometown discount. But even if he doesn't, to call him selfish or greedy is really unfair.
What's unfair is the current system that restricts the top free agents from going out and determining their own worth at a time—their second NFL contract—when their value is theoretically higher than it will be at any point in their careers.
You might say players like Bell should blame their union for agreeing to this deal. Yes, they should. But the owners obviously fought for this kind of non-freedom because no player with any kind of sense would bring a franchise tag to the table as a bargaining chip.
In other words, there's plenty of blame to go around in this current chasm between the Steelers and Bell (and I'm not even sure if anyone is really at fault here).
So maybe we should relax a bit on our hatred of Le'Veon Bell, and if you do buy his jersey, don't do anything hasty like setting it on fire.
After all, you'll look pretty silly in your Walter Abercombie jersey, if that's all you have to put on during a game next season when Bell's performance is, as this kids say today, fire.