The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to sign running back LeVeon Bell to a long-term contract extension by Monday’s deadline and on Tuesday his agent was interviewed on SiriusXM NFL Radio and tried to explain why his client ultimately turned down the team’s best and final offer.
“The Steelers do deals a certain way and we know that in the NFL, generally the great deal of attention has to be paid to guarantees,” Bell’s agent Adisa Bakari said. “And again, for your listening audience, in the NFL, a guarantee in the NFL is a three pronged conversation. There’s guarantees against injury, skill and the implications of the deal may have on a team salary cap and so two things I think made this deal more complicated than normal. One, is that resource allocation board, where again, Le’Veon certainly should not be looked at as a true running back because that’s not what he is. And then two, because of historically how the Steelers construct their deals, we couldn’t find a scenario that would ensure Le’Veon the level of protection from a guarantee standpoint that made sense.”
Bakari talked more about the importance of guarantees in contracts.
“I mean, you can report that the deal was $700 million dollars, but at the end of the day, how much is fully guaranteed in the context of NFL contracts,” Bakari said. This is not baseball, this is not the NBA, this is not hockey, this is the NFL where the only thing that matters with respect to these contracts – again for the fans listening, NFL contracts are unilaterally written. The prefix uni being the operative portion of that word. They are singularly written in the sense that the owners at anytime can decide that they don’t want to honor the contract anymore.”
Bakari was later asked to comment on whether the Monday report made by Ian Rapoport that stated that Bell turned down a five-year, $70 million offer from the Steelers that included $33 million in guarantees was true. He essentially said it wasn’t and also went on to say that the way the Steelers normally like to do deals in terms of guaranteed money played a large role in Bell not signing the last two offseasons.
“The most important element of that contract is how much is guaranteed to the player,” Bakari said. “And by guaranteeing, we’re again meaning guaranteed against injury, against skill, diminishing skill and guaranteeing against the consequences to the salary cap. So, no matter what that final number was, right, and I’m certainly not saying that what’s being reported is accurate, because it’s not, quite frankly, the most important element of it is the guarantee. And you couple that with the traditional way in which Pittsburgh does its deals, which at the end of the day, nothing’s guaranteed after the first year.”
What Bakari said Tuesday is essentially what I was saying in my Monday night post on why Bell likely turned down the Steelers best offer this year. The big sticking point appears to be the guaranteed money the Steelers offered, which was essentially just the first year of the deal. I’ll have more of what Bakari said in future posts.