In just a little more than six hours, we’re going to find out Le’Veon Bell’s future as a Pittsburgh Steeler. Either he’s going to accept a contract and be here for the long haul or a deal won’t get done and 2018 is Bell’s final one in black and gold.
I want to mostly remove my opinion for what should or will happen during the day. Instead, here are the factors that will lead to a new deal or not.
Why A Deal WILL Get Done
Because both sides want it to happen. And I don’t believe that to be cliche, white noise either. The Steelers want Bell. Bell wants to remain a Steeler. When you have that as a foundation, you can negotiate in good faith. There’s no bad blood between the two sides they way there was in the Kirk Cousins deal, when Washington low-balled him and didn’t hide their mistreatment of his side throughout the process.
We know the deal is relatively close. It’s hard to know all the details, and there’s so much more to it than just the average yearly value (I suspect guaranteed money is a big sticking point), but they’ve moved, even if it’s by inches, closer since starting this process roughly four billion years ago. Maybe that’s not enough but it sure beats them being farther apart.
Bell has to realize, and I believe he does, this is his last chance to stay a Steeler. After this, there’s no more leverage. Only walking papers. Maybe that’ll sober up his demands a bit, enough to end the back-and-forth with a handshake. And I hope that’s an angle the Steelers take, that now-or-never attitude to persuade Bell and get him over the edge.
Although it’s partially out of the team’s control, this dance takes two, after all, it’s rare for the Steelers to let a franchise player get away. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Cam Heyward, none came close to hitting the market. Bell’s situation is clearly more complex than any of those but the principle stands. Pittsburgh locks up the guys they want to lock up with their creativity of the cap and the culture of success they’ve fostered.
Why A Deal WON’T Get Done
Because we’ve heard the same story over and over again. The deal is close. Both sides want to see it happen.
Sky’s blue. Water’s wet. Nothing changes that. Ditto with Bell. He has his number, the Steelers won’t reach it, and talking for six more hours is only going in circles.
The little concrete information we do know is that Bell won’t dip below an average yearly value of $14.5 million per season, his franchise tag number for 2018. Last year, it was reported the Steelers top offer came in a little above $13 million. That’s not a huge gap but it’s still a gap, the way having $10 in your pocket doesn’t pay off a $15 tab (have fun washing dishes).
Bell has been stuck to his guns as much as any player you’d deal with. He wants to reset the market back to what it was in the Chris Johnson/Adrian Peterson glory days and that’s a major change to where it’s at today, as depressed as it’s been maybe ever.
Pittsburgh will only go so far and they’re not going to – in their minds – overpay for anyone who isn’t a quarterback. And if Bell isn’t willing to budge, something that’s entirely possible, It’s difficult to get the market back to where it was in one contract, too.
And then there’s the popular counter argument for why the team shouldn’t sign Bell. There’s the long-term worry, giving a back a truckload of money and risking him wearing down three years from now. That argument probably doesn’t matter to the reality of the situation, Pittsburgh wants to sign Bell long-term so that point clearly doesn’t bother them, but I know it’s out there. I’ve seen the Facebook comments.
As I mentioned above, even if they can agree on the yearly value, that’s only the start of the contract. Guaranteed money is the most important part and if the Steelers can’t offer Bell the security he wants, a deal definitely won’t occur. This isn’t the MLB or NBA – contracts here are far from guaranteed. And the Steelers don’t typically dish out monster signing bonuses.
I know I wanted to stay away from my opinion but here are my quick thoughts of what will happen and what I want to have happen.
1. As I’ve said since before even last year, I don’t expect a deal to get done. It’s not impossible but the odds are low.
2. However, I want the deal to get done. The Steelers need to structure it in a way that they can get out of the deal with as little dead money as possible in three or four years time but I’m in favor of locking him up long-term. Even if that means paying him $15 million per year.