The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to sign running back Le’Veon Bell to a long-term contract extension on Monday and now that some figures related to what he turned down have surfaced, perhaps it’s time to dig deeper some into why the deal still probably wasn’t rich enough for him to sign.
According to a Monday video report by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Steelers best offer to Bell totaled out at $70 million over five years. Rapport then goes on to say that the offer to Bell included $33 million in guarantees. However, what we still don’t know is how much of that $33 million was fully guaranteed. Until a different set of numbers surfaces, that’s really all we have to go on.
If I had to venture an educated guess, Bell’s full guarantees he was offered totaled out at around $20 million on the high side with the other $13 million or so coming in the form of injury/skill related guarantees, thus not fully guaranteed. If the Steelers offered Bell $33 million in full guarantees, essentially the first-two years of his deal, one would think, that would be really something monumental as that just hasn’t been how they operate with non-quarterbacks. Look at wide receiver Antonio Brown. The deal he signed a little over a year ago only included $19 million in fully guaranteed money, which was his signing bonus.
Let’s assume that Bell was only offered $20 million or so in fully guaranteed money. The Steelers selling point to Bell at that point would likely be that they have a long history as a franchise of paying out the full, or nearly-full amount, of lucrative contracts, and certainly at least the first two years worth. In short, they likely told Bell that barring something totally unforeseen, he would get at least $33 million of that $70 million. Additionally, Bell likely was offered a sizable 2019 roster bonus that would have been due him by the fifth day of the new league year in March. In short, he would probably have earned more than $25 million (guesstimate) by March of 2019 with whatever the remaining $33 million was leftover being paid to him by the end of the 2019 season.
Those guesstimated numbers aside, Bell’s full guarantees for signing up for five seasons was still likely around $20 million on the high side and in his mind, it was probably worth taking a $5.5 million or so gamble that he’ll have another good season in 2018 and that he will then easily find a team during free agency willing to pay him not only enough to sign to make up the $5.5 million, but fully guarantee a much higher percentage than what the Steelers were willing to.
Remember, Bell knows that he has $14.544 million in the bag right now for 2018 and when combined with the $12.12 million he received from the Steelers in 2017, he’ll have earned nearly $27 million in two seasons. He probably figured that’s a big enough cushion to allow him to leave some money on the table this year, just like he reportedly did this same time last year.
Now, if Bell suffers a serious injury in 2018, or his skills greatly diminish, he’ll probably wish that he had taken the Steelers offer this year. Depending on the team he ultimately signs with in 2019, he might have second thoughts as well down the line. At this point, one would think that Bell knows that 2018 is more than likely his final season with the Steelers. I mean, how can he not, right?
If you want to say that Bell has no loyalty to the Steelers and that he’s only concerned about the guaranteed money, I get that. However, the way the Steelers like to normally do big deals with non-quarterbacks when it comes to guaranteed monies also likely played a part in him turning down their best offers the last calendar year.
I obviously don’t know for sure if my full guaranteed numbers that Bell was likely offered and turned down are right. Even so, I will be shocked to learn that the first two years of whatever he was offered was fully guaranteed. That aside, I I would have bet that whatever those numbers were that Bell stood to earn through 2019, he would have seen at least that money ($33M?), barring something totally unforeseen happening had he signed. That possible unforeseen, however, is likely why Bell turned down the Steelers final offer once again.
We’ll ultimately have to see what happens with Bell in March of 2019 to see if his decision to turn down the Steelers best offer this year was the right choice from a monetary standpoint. Should reports ultimately surface that Bell was offered around $30 million or more in fully guaranteed money, then it will certainly be a lot harder to understand why he turned such a deal down. That’s all I have now based on Rapoport’s early report, however. Should any different numbers surface in the coming days, I’ll make sure to pass them along and then try more speculation as to why it was ultimately turned down.
Now that the deadline with Bell has passed, it’s fun to look back at one particular early offseason quote of his.
“Yeah, a lot of it is about the guarantees,” Bell said during an interview right before the Super Bowl. “That’s what a long-term deal really is, you know? You want that security to it. That’s why I said I’ll play on the tag. All that’s going to be guaranteed. You want to tag me again, OK, all that’s going to be guaranteed. That’s how I kind of look at it because I don’t want sign a long-term deal and everybody says I signed for $70 million but only the first year is guaranteed. So the first $17 million that you make in that year that’s the only year that’s guaranteed…”
Maybe the Steelers best offer on Monday only included $17 million in full guarantees and if that was indeed the case, it makes it a little more understandable why he turned it down even though I probably wouldn’t have.