As expected, the Atlanta Falcons have finally signed running back Devonta Freeman to a lucrative long-term contract extension and the early reported numbers of that deal aren’t likely to impress Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.
According to early media reports, Freeman’s new five-year contract extension totals out at $41.25 million and includes $22 million in guarantees. Freeman will reportedly earn $26 million in the first three years of the deal and that includes $15 million to sign.
While Freeman’s new yearly average is reportedly $8.25 million, which is slightly more than what Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy currently earns, it still falls way short of Bell’s $12.12 million franchise tag amount this year. In case you forgot, Bell reportedly recently turned down a five-year deal from the Steelers that would have supposedly paid him $30 million in the first two years and $42 million through the first three. With that said, we still don’t know what kind of full guarantees Bell was offered, but it’s hard to imagine it was more than $18-$19 million as the Steelers normally only guarantee signing bonuses for non-franchise quarterbacks.
After the Freeman deal was announced, former NFL agent and current CBS Sports contributor Joel Corry weighed in with his thoughts on what it might mean for Bell next offseason.
“Devonta Freeman’s contract doesn’t give Le’Veon Bell new ammunition for a long term deal with Steelers if franchised again in 2018,” Corry wrote on Twitter. Corry also added, “I doubt Le’Veon Bell hits Devonta Freeman’s $22M of guarantees on long term deal with Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown is at $19M on $17M per year.”
While Bell reportedly believes he’s worth No. 1 running back and No. 2 wide receiver money combined because of his skill set, he’s not likely ever going to get that from the Steelers. If he ultimately signs this year’s franchise tag tender and has another great season in 2017, the Steelers might just decide tag him again next offseason. That tag will be north of $14.5 million and thus Bell and his agent will likely expect a long-term offer from the Steelers to average a little more than that. Expecting and ultimately getting are two different things, however.
We’ll now have to wait and see if any other running backs sign new lucrative long-term contracts throughout the remainder of the year, but even if that happens, the average yearly value of such a deal or deals isn’t likely to exceed Freeman’s new average by much, if at all.