Basically the only thing that there has been to talk about in terms of news as it pertains to the Pittsburgh Steelers over the course of the past few weeks has been their failure to agree to terms on a long-term contract with running back Le’Veon Bell, so it’s understandable that we’ve devoted a lot of space to that topic.
The focal point of the discussion has been two-fold: one, the total value of the money that he turned down, and two, the issue of fully guaranteed salary. The fact that these two work together has caused a lot of confusion, so I wanted to try to clarify that.
I do not think it’s entirely accurate to say that Le’Veon Bell and his agent, Adisa Bakari, turned down a $15 million-a-year contract, at least not in the sense of framing it in its proper context. It was not the average annual salary that was the problem with the deal. It was the lack of full guarantees.
Dave Bryan already talked about that, and covered it pretty thoroughly, but I want to expand on this. I think it’s likely that, had the Steelers offered Bell more in the way of guarantees, he would have signed a deal for the same total amount of money.
Take this quote from Bell’s agent when he recently appeared on SiriusXM Radio, talking about his client hitting the open market and if he thought he would get the guaranteed money he was looking for. “Even if our average number turns out to be less than what we ended up with Pittsburgh”, Bakari said, “the overall guarantee would still provide greater assurance to Le’Veon because it would be a real guarantee”.
I admit, it’s not direct and explicit, but it does seem to imply that Bell would be open to a deal worth the same amount of money, and maybe even less, if there were more commitment behind that cash. But by the time he hits the open market, the Steelers’ deal is going to be the floor.
And why wouldn’t it be? They’ve already expressed their intention to continue negotiating with him. They already upped their final offer from $13.3 million per season in 2017 to reportedly $15 million (or at least $14 million) this year, according to reports. He’s going to make $14.55 million this year. That’s his range. That’s what he’ll be earning, assuming he has a typical season.
“All things being equal, if we simply were to hit the market…is it safe to say that he would get a guarantee that’s more traditional for NFL contracts, vis-à-vis the Steelers? The answer to that is a resounding yes”, Bell’s agent said.
Looking at the top 10 running back contracts right now, minus rookie deals, the average full guarantee according to Over the Cap is about 35-40 percent. The Steelers reportedly offered just 14 percent of a $70 million contract in full guarantees in the form of a $10 million signing bonus. If the team offered $28 million in guarantees, which would be 40 percent, would he be under contract right now?