Comparing The Deal Le’Veon Bell Signed In 2019 To The One Turned Down In 2018

About three quarters of the fan base loves—or loves to hate—discussing the contracts of former Pittsburgh Steelers players, especially if they were players who chose to leave Pittsburgh over money, only to find their market less than they expected. The other quarter just hates it.

This is for the three quarters, and also by request. Understandably, there has been a lot of talk about Le’Veon Bell’s new contract with the New York Jets and how it compares to the reported offer that the Steelers extended to him in 2018 that he turned down. It was worth more in total, and per-season, than the Jets’ offer, but included less in total guarantees.

The specific details of the Jets’ offer are not yet known, and it’s impossible to completely piece together the details of a contract that doesn’t yet exist, but there is enough information out there to at least cobble together a comparison.

Let’s start with the Jets’ deal that he signed, which was for four years and $52.5 million, which included a maximum value of $61 million if he hits unknown incentives. New York’s deal is said to have included $35 million in guarantees.

According to Aditi Kinkhabwala, $28 million of that number was guaranteed for skill, injury, and cap, which is another way of saying that it’s fully guaranteed (can only be voided due to suspension or discipline). That’s a substantial number that exceeds the full guarantees in Todd Gurley’s contract last year, but of course their circumstances were different.

Last season, the Steelers were said to have offered Bell a five-year, $70 million contract, which breaks down to $15 million per season. It was reported that it included $33 million, but we know that was not all fully guarantees.

Based on reports made throughout the summer and into the fall, the deal included a $10 million signing bonus, in addition to a $10 million roster bonus that would have vested within days of signing, so effectively, the deal included $20 million in full guarantees barring him doing something so atrociously stupid within days of signing that the Steelers would have been forced to cut him right after giving him $10 million. This is why the notion of ‘full guarantees’ is not as meaningful as it’s often made out to be.

It was also noted that Bell would have made $33 million over the first two years of the contract in total in a rolling guaranteed structure. This likely indicates that he would have had either a roster bonus or base salary or a combination of both become vested as fully guaranteed early in the near year of 2019. So if he played through 2018 and was still on the roster come, say, Friday, he would have $33 million guaranteed to him right now.

I’m just laying out the facts as far as we know them—which is far from concrete—for others to decide for themselves what they think of the deal Bell turned down versus the one that he signed. The only thing I can say for certain is that he was expecting a better market than he found, as the Jets were said to have not upped their offer, yet he waited until Tuesday night to agree to it. Had he been that happy with the offer, he would have agreed earlier as so many other big-name free agents had.

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