Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell arrived at the decision to—at least evidently—stay away from as much football as possible this season in order to preserve his body for the 2019 free agency period, knowing that any touch could be a financially crushing injury. It’s possible that he even chooses to hold out the entire season, if he wants to risk the Steelers tagging him again next year as the same price as this year.
It’s fair to say that there have been a lot of vocal critics and supports on this issue. While most agree that he should have at least kept the team and his teammates informed about his decision not to report, many also respect his right to stay away in order to keep himself fresh for when he has an opportunity to land the contract he has sought for years.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN recently published an article about Bell’s situation, and one segment was about how his choice to sit out possibly most or all of the season affects his value in the minds of decision-makers around the league.
He spoke to two personnel executives, Fowler wrote, and he got two different answers for them. one was concerned about “disrupting the team-first formula they covet”, which would have an impact on his desire to go after a player like Bell, who is only not playing football because he is preserving himself for a contract that he can’t sign right now.
The other executive told Fowler that he understands Bell’s position, but ultimately wonders what he is looking for in the long run and if it is realistically attainable for him. “Nobody is going to pay a running back $20 million a year, and if he can get $12-15 million annually, he best take it”, he said. “It’s a hazardous position with a short life expectancy. But he’s not bailing, just trying to get his last contract”.
The reality of course is that it only takes one team to make one decision to bring him in at the salary he wants. This is how players like Tim Tebow get drafted in the first round. You only need to make one team—sometimes even one person—a believer in you, at your price, in order for you to get it.
I think that is likely to be what Bell faces next year. There may be resistance from some potential suitors, but I’m sure that he will find one that is going to give him the contract he has been seeking for the past three years—one that he likely would have had were it not for multiple suspensions and a knee injury.