So by now you’ve surely heard that soon-to-be former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is reported to have agreed to terms on a contract with the New York Jets that will continue to contribute to the growth of the free agent market of the position. Only it didn’t come close to resetting it, as he had hoped.
According to reports, the deal he will sign tomorrow is for four years and worth $52.4 million, which comes out to $13.125 million per season. As you might gather, that is less than what his franchise tag would have been. The Steelers reportedly offered him a five-year, $70 million contract in 2018 that he turned down, calling it “Monopoly money” for its lack of full guarantees.
The reported maximum value of the contract, including as-yet-unknown incentives, can work up to $61 million. But let’s be honest. If Bell were so in love with the deal, he would have been one of the first players to agree to a deal, rather than doing so heading into Wednesday morning.
It’s said that the Jets “held firm on their offer” rather than upping it, to dispel any notions that a late development resulted in him finding the deal acceptable. New York chose to stand pat because they didn’t want to bid against themselves, pretty much out the Oakland Raiders wound up being the only one bidding for Antonio Brown.
But here’s the thing: that’s still a great contract, and it’s a great day for Bell and his long-term future. He just got the security and finances that he was looking for. The only reason that it’s being treated any less than that—and admittedly, not entirely unfairly—is because of the way that he approached the entire situation for over two years.
It really doesn’t help that he seemed to go out of his way on multiple occasions to poke fun at the idea of joining the Jets specifically last season, even going so far as to tell TMZ, when prompted what it would take to sign with them, that he would need $100 million from them. Well, he got a little over halfway there.
This is not the contract that you would expect the most productive player on a per-game basis in NFL history would reach once he hits the open market. But he’s not just the most productive player. He’s a player who just sat out of the game for an entire year, has injury and suspension histories, and has participated in some questionable conduct. Even the New York media that was clamoring for Bell and is happy for the signing has framed it as a risk.
As for the Steelers’ part, the contract that he signed, even with their addition of Steven Nelson, will put them in-line for a third-round compensatory draft pick in 2020—provided that the mystic wonders of the formula produce the anticipated results. And that’s really the only part that matters after the sense of schadenfreude subsides.
Plus, chances are the Jets will release Isaiah Crowell in the next two days. Perhaps a veteran running back the Steelers can take a look at.