Not that it matters much at this point, but some new information surfaced on Friday regarding the contract the Pittsburgh Steelers offered running back Le’Veon Bell this past offseason that he chose not to accept. And quite honestly, the latest report really matches what I have speculated the Steelers offer in the way of first-year money would be, and likely was, to Bell since the 2017 season ended.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk on Friday, the Steelers best contract offer to Bell during the offseason included the running back being paid $47 million through the first three years of the deal. Additionally, Florio reports that in addition to the $10 million in fully guarantee money that Bell was offered in that deal, another $10 million would have been paid to him in 2018 as part of a roster bonus. In short, Bell stood to earn at least $20 million in 2018 and the only way he wouldn’t have is if the Steelers would have cut him prior to paying him that roster bonus, which according to Florio, would have been due to the running back not long after he had accepted and signed the deal.
As I started pretty much all offseason long and even after Bell turned down the Steelers final offer in the middle of July, the running back was virtually guaranteed to earn between $18 to $22 million in 2018 as long as he didn’t do anything stupid. As it turns out, that number was likely right around the middle at $20 million. Yes, we still don’t know the exact structure, however, as it relates to base salary and signing bonus amounts, in addition to injury only guarantees and possible second- or third-year roster bonuses due in March. Even so, and as I have stated for quite a while, Bell was “virtually guaranteed” to earn at least the first three years of whatever contract he would have signed with the Steelers, which now looks like may have been $47 million in total.
Before any of you start commenting about the contracts that were ultimately signed this offseason by fellow NFL running backs Todd Gurley and David Johnson, make sure you have your facts straight when it comes to the “fully guaranteed” money that each was given and the new money cash flow for each.
Gurley’s “fully guaranteed” money that he received when he signed his four-year, $57.5 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Rams on July 25, 2018 was all of $21.95 million and that includes the $21 million signing bonus given to him. The $45 million in total guarantees that was initially reported when Gurley signed his deal is a virtual guarantee total and I bet not many of you have taken the time to read the details of that contract Florio posted a while ago that explains the rolling structure. If you haven’t, shame on you.
As for the three-year, $39 million contract extension that Johnson signed with the Arizona Cardinals on September 10, 2018, his fully guaranteed money in that deal works out to be $24,682,500 and that includes a signing bonus given to him in the amount of $12 million. His injury guarantees work out to be just a little less than $32 million, the first three years of his deal.
From 2018 through 2020, Gurley and Johnson will have earned $40 million and $31.8825 million, respectively, whereas Bell would have reportedly earned $47 million in those same three years had he accepted and signed the contract the Steelers reportedly offered him.
As you can see, Bell turned down a very reasonable offer from the Steelers even though the technical fully guaranteed amount was likely just a signing bonus of around $10 million. Let me also point out, however, that a recent ESPN.com article that included quotes from Bell stated the running back turned down a deal from the Steelers that included $17 million in fully guaranteed money and that’s $2 million less than what former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew said in a recent interview.
Here is what Jeremy Fowler wrote this past week:
The primary reason he’s sitting: Bell’s $70 million offer from Pittsburgh over the summer contained $17 million in guarantees. That wasn’t enough when Todd Gurley and David Johnson received between $31 million and $45 million in guarantees. Bell called the Steelers’ $70 million “Monopoly money.”
How much of that quote above is Fowler interjecting/speculating and how much of it is what from Bell said? Surely Bell doesn’t believe that Gurley and Johnson signed deals with fully guaranteed amounts that high. Personally, I think that’s Fowler interjecting into the story with his own wrong understandings of the deals signed by the other two running backs.
Knowing the way the Steelers have structured high dollar contracts in the past, not only did Bell turn down $20 million in “virtually guaranteed” money in 2018, it’s a good bet he would have earned at least another $6 million by March of 2019 as part of a new league year roster bonus and probably at least another $7 million in base salary by the end of the 2019 season, which would have put his two-year take at around $33 million, at a minimum. In fact, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network even reported back in July that Bell would’ve made $33 million in the first two years of the deal as part of a rolling guaranteed structure.
All the above reported numbers aside, Bell reportedly still decided to turn down the Steelers final offer this summer because the amount of fully guaranteed money wasn’t to his liking, or at least that’s what his agent Adisa Bakari led us to believe back in the middle of July
“The most important element of that contract is how much is guaranteed to the player,” Bakari said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “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.”