The Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 OTA sessions get underway on Tuesday and will do so with running back Le’Veon Bell having yet to sign a new long-term contract extension. So, is this a reason to panic? Absolutely not and it’s ridiculous to even start worrying about something that’s ultimately bound to happen.
For starters, Bell is currently still rehabbing from offseason groin surgery and because of that, he’s unlikely to do much of anything, if anything at all, during the Steelers OTA practices and subsequent mandatory minicamp. That’s perfectly fine as the former second-round draft pick needs to be 100 percent healthy for the start of the regular season and the team can closely monitor his rehab for the next month in order to make sure he doesn’t suffer any sort of setback prior to signing him long-term.
Next, it’s not like the Steelers are hurting for salary cap space right now and that’s even with Bell currently counting $12.12 million after being issued the franchise tag ahead of the start of the 2017 league year in March. In fact, the Steelers might just free up a little more salary cap space once they sign Bell to an extension depending on how they decide to structure his 2017 money.
Lastly, as the old saying goes, “deadlines spur action” and in Bell’s case, that deadline is July 15. While three players around the NFL who were issued the franchise tag this offseason have already signed new long-term extensions, four others, including Bell, haven’t and that’s not overly surprising.
Bell’s agent, Adisa Bakari, has a history of getting deals done for franchised running backs he’s represented in the past right ahead of the yearly deadline, so it won’t be a surprise if the same course of action is taken this year with the Steelers’ running back. So, barring any kind of unforeseen circumstance such as another suspension or injury setback, you can probably expect to wait at least another month for Bell to sign a long-term extension that should ultimately tie him to the Steelers for the rest of the prime portion of his NFL career.
Personally, and as I have stated previously, my hope is that Bell’s new deal includes most of his 2017 money being paid to him in base salary and a roster bonus in lieu of a huge signing bonus. While such a structure might ultimately result in his current 2017 salary cap charge not decreasing, it would protect the organization from a career-threatening injury, or God forbid, any more off-the-field problems.
Regardless of how a new deal is ultimately structured for Bell, I have full confidence that he’ll have one by the time the July 15 deadline rolls around and thus there’s no reason to worry about him still not having one as the team starts their annual OTA sessions.