While many fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers have lone grown tired of hearing about Le’Veon Bell and the running back’s contract demands, there is one group of players very, very interested in seeing whereh e goes in March and how much he’s going to get paid. That would be the next group of running backs making preparation for their payday.
That includes Melvin Gordon, who is on the final year of his rookie contract and is due for an extension at some point this offseason with the Los Angeles Chargers after making the Pro Bowl in 2018 despite having some injury issues.
“I’m waiting. I’m sitting back waiting, waiting on Bell”, he recently said on a podcast. “I’m glad it’s changing because we (running backs) were getting devalued for a little bit. But me, David Johnson, Todd Gurley, I can go down a whole list, Bell, you name it, ‘Zeke,’ just game-changers, Alvin Kamara, all those guys”.
Both David Johnson and Todd Gurley, of course, signed new contracts last offseason. Johnson, with the Arizona Cardinals, was coming off a season-ending injury and entering the final year of his rookie contract when he signed a three-year, $39 million extension.
As for Gurley, the former first-round pick signed a four-year extension that was added on to the two years still remaining on his deal, including the fifth-year option that had already been picked up. In the new money portion of the contract, he added $57.5 million in value to his deal, including a $21 million signing bonus.
As for Bell, the Steelers reportedly offered him a contract that totaled between $70-75 million over five seasons, but with low figures with respect to money that is fully guaranteed at signing. He and his agent chose to balk at the offer, foregoing not just the entire season but the $14 million-plus he would have received for playing under the franchise tag.
Free agency is fewer than seven weeks away, however, during which he will try to make up the money that he lost, but with a particular emphasis on earning a contract that pays out the maximum he can find in full guarantees.
In Bell’s defense, he is a player who has missed over a full seasons’s worth of games due to injuries and suspensions even before sitting out the 2018 season, so he is coming from a perspective that understands his opportunity to earn at this premium level is limited. He took the calculated risk of protecting his body for long-term stability over a contract that he felt didn’t offer enough protections in the event of a catastrophic failure in his performance, health, or availability.