2018 Offseason Questions: What Is Le’Veon Bell’s Worth On Open Market?

The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.

Question: What is Le’Veon Bell’s worth on the open market?

This is the prevailing question of the day regarding Le’Veon Bell. What is the running back worth in truth, unhindered, on the open market? The Steelers have very rarely had to subject themselves to open bidding to keep their most important players, almost always able to sign them to extension rather than completely new deals, so we often don’t actually see this come up.

For two years, the Steelers have had exclusive negotiating rights with Bell, and for two years, they have failed to reach a deal. He has reportedly been offered contracts from the team worth all the way up to $15 million. But that is not necessarily the floor.

Adisa Bakari, Bell’s agent, said yesterday—without confirming any numbers—that it is feasible that his client could accept a contract with a lower total overall value than what the Steelers offered, provided that it came with greater guarantees, on which Pittsburgh’s deal was obviously limited.

But with the Steelers already confirming that they will continue to bid on Bell in free agency next year, their contract offer could be the floor set, provided that his play during the 2018 season keeps his stock as high as it currently is.

Along with David Johnson this offseason—who may well have been relying upon a new Bell deal to set the table for his own this year—and Todd Gurley, it’s virtually a foregone conclusion that he will be the pioneer he was hoping to be in reconquering lost ground in the running back market.

How high will those numbers reach, both in terms of total value and in guaranteed value? And with whom will he sign? All three of those questions matter. If he signs with a team that is known not to honor its contracts, for example, then he is exposing himself to greater risk, provided that the guarantee is not high.

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