Assuming Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will indeed miss the first four games of the 2016 regular season due to a suspension, the former second-round draft pick out of Michigan State can probably forget all about getting a new contract over the course of the next several weeks. If, however, he winds up signing an extension, I can guarantee you the new money won’t average $15 million, or even $13 million, for that matter.
So, where will all of this potentially leave Bell? For starters, he’ll have every incentive in the world to play extremely well once he returns from what looks like will be a four-game suspension. It might not seem like it, but those extra four weeks of rehab might actually be good for him in the long run.
Assuming Bell returns from a suspension as the same running back he was prior to going down injured midway through the 2015 regular season, his market value should remain in tact and likely climb a little more. After the 2016 season concludes, the Steelers will then have to decide whether or not to place the franchise tag on Bell. While that dollar amount is not yet set, I’ve been told by several agents to expect it to be between $12-$13 million.
If ultimately franchise tagged, the Steelers could work out a long-term deal with Bell at that point, or just string him along yearly on the tag. A long-term deal, however, would only be one that heavily favors the Steelers side when it comes to guaranteed money and especially being as he has already had two knee injuries and now possibly two drug related suspensions.
Bell’s latest off-the-field indiscretion has really threatened his long-term security as far as money goes. While he very well could ultimately earn more than $12 million under the franchise tag next year, a long-term deal this offseason could’ve resulted in him being guaranteed much, much more in future years.