Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is a gambling man and especially when it comes to him betting on himself. If you want proof of that, all you need to do is look at the reported contract from the Steelers he just turned down.
If the Tuesday numbers that Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network passed along on Twitter are true, and there’s no reason to believe they aren’t, Bell turned down a five or six year contract offer from the Steelers that would have paid him $30 million in the first two years and $42 million through the first three. That’s a lot of damn money and $14 million per over the course of the next three to be exact. Even so, most of it wasn’t fully guaranteed.
While we dont know the full layout of Bell’s reported offer from the Steelers, logic tells you that he probably turned down roughly $18-20 million in 2017. While all of that first year money probably wasn’t fully guaranteed, he really would have had to do something stupid not to get it all. For all practical purposes, the same really goes for the $30 million he would have earned through the first two years of the deal. Outside of another suspension or a very serious injury, he was more than likely going to see that money.
Now, Bell enters 2017 with the notion that he’s already going to earn nearly $27 million at the very least over the course of the next two seasons thanks to possible back-to-back franchise tags and possibly even more than that should he work out a long-term deal with the organization a year from now. Should, however, Bell ultimately not receive the $14.5 million franchise tag from the Steelers next offseason, he is betting that another team will be willing to pay him way more than $18 million in 2018 as an unrestricted free agent to sign with them as part of long-term deal that will average well over the $12 million-plus per year the Steelers reportedly offered him. Additionally, he is betting that that new deal with another team will have second-year earnings that would bring his three-year total (2017-2019) to way more than the $42 million he would have received during the same span of years with the Steelers.
So, what happens if the Steelers tag Bell next offseason and they fail to work out a long-term deal with him again by this same time next year? Well, Bell will have pocketed just shy of $27 million come the end of the 2018 season and he and his agent will dare the Steelers to place a third consecutive tag on him, which will be the equivalent to the quarterback franchise tag amount. That’s not going to happen, so Bell would become an unrestricted free agent in 2019 at the age of 27 looking for one last big payday from another team. He would, however, need to get more than $15.5 million in year-one of his new deal in order for his gamble to pay off and as long as he stays healthy and keeps his nose clean, that shouldn’t be a problem, at least as we sit here today.
Is there a drawback to Bell’s gamble? Well, first, he must remain healthy and out of trouble with the league office moving forward and he really can only control one of those two things. As for him potentially staying healthy, he’ll need to do so while likely touching the football at least 300 more times in 2017. If the Steelers tag him back-to-back years and fail to work out a long-term deal with him, he’ll probably need to touch the football roughly 650 or more times prior to hitting free agency in 2019. Any substantial drop-off in production or missed games due to injury will undoubtedly hurt his future market value to some degree.
In short, Bell and his agent are betting that nearly $27 million is already in the bank even without a long-term deal and that amount is just a little more than $3 million shy of what the Steelers were willing to pay him over the course of the next two. That’s a worst-case scenario in their eyes and they’re gambling that earnings over the course of the next three years will be much more than the $42 million he would get from the Steelers and that he’ll earn even more through years number four and five. I haven’t even touched on possible outside endorsement deals that Bell probably stands to get and perhaps he already has a few to help offset his recent gamble.
Instead Bell being nicknamed “The Juice”, perhaps “The Gambler” is more fitting for Bell moving forward into his career. While you might not agree with his decision to turn down the Steelers offer, hopefully you can see now why he probably did. He’s betting on himself.