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Bryan: When Dust Settles In Mid-July, I Expect Bell To Sign Steelers Deal

It’s not even mid-March yet and I’m sure most of you are already tired of talking about Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. If that’s the case, you might want to stay off this site for a while as I’m almost positive there will be several more posts dedicated to him and his contract situation for probably most of the offseason. With that said, I am now going to officially go on the record and predict that Bell will sign a new long-term contract prior to the July 16 deadline.

If you’ve been following along with the Bell saga you should know by now that both sides are very interested in getting a new deal done before the July 16 deadline and that’s not a bit surprising. While both sides said the same thing a year ago, this year the necessity ramps up quite a bit because the Steelers just won’t franchise tag Bell again a year from now because that would require the quarterback tag amount. In short, if Bell doesn’t sign a new contract by July 16, the likelihood he’ll be a Steeler in 2019 would be very remote.

Bell sure has talked a lot about wanting to revive the running back market with his next contract as of late. In several interviews now he’s brought up the contracts that Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson signed way back in 2011 and why he fails to understand why the market value of running back position has since seemingly collapsed. With that, let’s review the contract that Peterson signed in 2011.

According to reports from 2011, Peterson signed a seven-year contract that had a maximum value of $100 million. The fact of the matter is that Peterson’s contract that he signed with the Minnesota Vikings was a six-year extension that according to the numbers, included $85.28 million in new money. That deal also reportedly included just a $12 million signing bonus with $36 million of the contract being guaranteed in some capacity at signing. Now, Peterson reportedly stood to earn $40 million in base salary and signing and workout bonuses in the first three years of that deal and also stood to earn as much as $3 million more in rushing yardage incentives. If you work off of just the $40 million number, Peterson stood to average $13.333 million in earnings from 2011-2013. However, his real APY for his extension was considered to be $14,213,333.

If we are to believe what Bell said in a recent interview with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, he indeed turned down a contract offer from the Steelers last summer that would have paid him $42 million over the first three years with an average of $13.3 million over the life of the deal. In short, Bell stood to earn $2 million more than Peterson was slated to earn in base and bonus money in the first three years of that offer. Bell even admitted to Fowler that his mother wanted him to sign that offer and he chose to go against her wishes just the same.

Bell claims he has a number in mind that he wants the Steelers to match and that it essentially includes a hometown discount. It also sounds like he’s given up now on the extreme guaranteed money request and if so, it’s a good thing because that’s just not how the Steelers operate when it comes to non-quarterback contracts. If I had to guess, Bell’s main hangup right now is average yearly value. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number he has in his head is as high as $17 million per season. At some point between now and July 16 he will probably finally realize that’s an impossible number to reach with the Steelers.

I have no idea what the Steelers current offer to Bell looks like but I think it’s easy to speculate that the average yearly value of it is at least $13.3 million like a year ago, or perhaps as high as $15 million, a smidgen higher than the $14.544 million franchise tag he’s now wearing. If that speculation is correct, I can’t see the Steelers budging any between now and July 16.

Bell has several offseason hobbies and one of them is his rap music. He also likes to play a lot of basketball during the offseason which he considers part of his football training. Because of his interest off the field and combined with the fact that he seems to enjoy being the current spokesman for NFL running backs and the potential savior of the position’s market value, I fully expect Bell to stay away from the team’s OTAs once again as he refuses to sign the franchise tag. The closer we get to July 16, however, I believe Bell will ultimately come to terms with the Steelers on a long-term contract extension.

While Bell might seem to be anti-Steelers and ultra-greedy right now, I sense a fact that he truly doesn’t want to play for any other team and that he absolutely wants to finish his career in Pittsburgh. His mother wants that as well as she was a Steelers fan well before Bell was drafted by them in 2013.

“She grew up a Steelers fan, everyone in my family did,” said Bell not long after the Steelers had drafted him. “My grandpa grew up a fan of the team. That is where she got it from. He was in tears when they drafted me.

“The fact that I got drafted here made it more exciting for everyone. I am happy to be here. I am glad it’s not too far away. It’s the perfect distance. My mom can drive to the games. She is so excited and I am happy for her.”

As long as the Steelers offer to Bell remains fair, and none of us have any reason to believe that it won’t, I predict the running back will finally heed his mothers advice and sign a contract extension in mid-July and just in time for the start of training camp in Latrobe.

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