Now that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le.Veon Bell has been placed on the team’s Reserve/Injured list with a right MCL injury, we’re likely to hear about him having surgery in the coming days. Being as Bell will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2016, many are wondering how this latest injury affects that status.
For starters, Bell has a lot of time to get himself fully healthy following surgery. However, I doubt he will be able to fully practice during the team’s OTA sessions. Depending on the kind of surgery needed and how hard he attacks his rehab, Bell might be ready to resume practicing come the start of training camp, which is 8 and a half months away.
Currently, Adrian Peterson is the highest paid running back in the league as he’s averaging $14 million a season. Marshawn Lynch is second on the list with an average yearly value of $12 million. In other words, Bell is probably going to want at least $10 million a season and maybe more.
Through some fault of his own, Bell has only played 35 out of a possible 40 games so far during his career. While two of those missed games were because of a suspension, the other three were to foot and knee injuries. He will now miss the next 8 games after being placed on the Reserve/Injured list and thus will have missed 11 games during his first three seasons in the league.
Knowing how the Steelers have dealt with running backs in the past, I’m starting to wonder if Bell won’t be receiving a new contract prior to the start of the 2016 season and especially now with him coming off a knee injury.
The plan of action the Steelers might take with Bell could very well result in them using the franchise or transition tag on him after the 2016 season is over. Why? Well for starters, the Steelers list of players who will likely need a contract the offseason prior to the start of the 2017 season shouldn’t be long as guard David DeCastro should already have his new deal in place by then and the same goes for wide receiver Antonio Brown.
In fact, defensive end Stephon Tuitt and wide receiver Martavis Bryant might just be the only two players who will be heading into the final year of their contracts that the Steelers might be looking to sign long-term prior to the 2017 season. As we sit here today, I’m not so sure the Steelers won’t let Bryant play out his full contract, first, and then decide whether or not to franchise or transition tag him after the final year of his rookie deal has been played.
While we still have a lot of time to speculate about this, as I sit here today, I think I will be very surprised if Bell gets a new contract prior to the start of the 2016 season. While he’s certainly a great back who is deserving a new deal now based on what he’s done so far, the Steelers would be wise to wait until after he’s played the final year of his rookie contract before locking him up long-term after slapping the franchise or transition tag on him.