I wasn’t planning on writing anything more about Le’Veon Bell until Tuesday, at which point we would know once and for all if he is ever going to be a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers again, even if only for half a season or so. But then I read a silly little article from Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that tries to lay the case for him not showing up.
And to be clear, there is a case for him not showing up and just sitting out the entire season. But it’s far from the no-brainer that Florio makes it out to be, for which he supplies a couple of reasons, both of them really rather generous in their assumptions.
For one, he argues, “trust me, the deal he signs in March 2019 will be much better than the deal he could have signed with the Steelers in July 2018”. We don’t even know the exact numbers of what he was offered, for starters, but what is ‘better’ is also rather subjective, and also relative to the team he signs for, and one professional goals he might have.
The more absurd assumption that he offers is that skipping an entire season will thereby add another season onto the back end of his career. “As a practical matter Bell arguably has extended his career by a full year by taking a full year off”, he argued, “reducing the wear and tear and allowing him to tear it up another year deeper into his 30s. Think of it as an advance on his eventual retirement”.
First of all, by that logic, all players should skip as many seasons as they can afford, as long as the salary cap keeps going up. Begin your career in your mid-30s and play until you’re 50 in order to maximize your percentage of the salary cap.
But players don’t get worn down simply due to physical exertion. There’s also a little thing called life, and with it comes age. A 32-year-old running back is still 32 years old, even if he didn’t play in the year in which he was 26.
This all assumes that there is at least one team out there that has no qualms about Bell, either, and is willing to throw out absurd money for him (Florio actually throws out a figure of $18 million per season and $40 million fully guaranteed. If he actually gets that, more power to him).
It’s hard to believe that scouting departments around the league haven’t been paying attention to what James Conner has been doing this season behind the same offensive line that Bell has spent his career working with and drawing conclusions about the role those men might have played in the latter’s success.
Some will argue that Dez Bryant’s injury is further proof that it’s best for him to stay away until next year while he has nothing beyond this season guaranteed. That ignores the fact that Bryant’s injury likely happened at least in part due to the extended time off away from football. He hadn’t been on a field since December 31, 2017.