While running back Le’Veon Bell is no longer a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team is still getting a little backlash about the way they handled their contract negotiations with him the last two offseasons while he was wearing the franchise tag. Continually leading that backlash is Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, who just so happens to be a Steelers fan at heart.
Florio also fully understands that the Steelers don’t structure long-term contracts for non-quarterbacks the way most of the other teams in the league do and specifically when it comes to them not fully guaranteeing more than the first-year of those deals. On Wednesday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert made his annual post-draft appearance on Pro Football Talk Live and Florio made sure to fit in a question about the organization’s contract structure practices at the end of the interview.
In summation, Florio asked Colbert if that in the aftermath of the last two years of the Steelers failing to sign Bell to a long-term contract, after twice issuing him the franchise tag, if the organization will now look to maybe deviate from their reluctance to give fully guaranteed money to franchise tagged beyond the first year, which is always fully guaranteed for tagged players.
“Yeah, we’ll always look at where trends are,” Colbert said. “You know, once again, we’ve done contracts the way we’ve done and we’ve been successful. And players, they either agree with you, or they don’t. If they don’t, then they move on. But we’re also aware of what goes on and different trends, but when you switch some philosophies over time, you have to do some work from a cap standpoint because you can’t be one way and go the other way overnight because there’s too many cap implications, especially when you want to be competitive in a given year.
“So, you know, we’ll never gut the team. From a cap standpoint, we’ve been able to be competitive every year. Now we have to make sure that from a personnel standpoint we have the players that can get us there. So, we’ll always try to be up to date, but we’ll also be true to what’s worked with us in the past. You try to find that happy medium and try to find success the best way you can.”
In short, Colbert and the Steelers don’t sound like they will be changing the way they negotiate long-term contracts for non-quarterbacks anytime in the near future. Also, what Florio always seems to conveniently leave out of his arguments when it comes to him criticizing the way the Steelers handle fully guaranteed money in contracts is that the organization has a long and outstanding record of fully paying out most of their attractive long-term deals that they get done with their players.
Obviously, the way the Steelers like to do business wasn’t good enough for Bell, who has since signed a four year, $52.5 million contract with the New York Jets. That deal, however, reportedly only included $27 million being fully guaranteed at signing and a total of $35 million in full guarantees plus injury guarantees. While Bell did save himself a year of wear and tear by sitting out all of last season, he’s still behind in where he would be earnings wise had he signed the Steelers best and final offer last July.
Will the Steelers need to franchise tag another player before the current CBA that’s in place expires? I doubt it. Additionally, I doubt the Steelers will have to get any hugely lucrative deals done with many existing players currently under contract in the near future. Now that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and center Maurkice Pouncey both have their new extensions in place, who is left? Cornerback Joe Haden, perhaps? If Haden gets an extension from the Steelers, such a transaction is likely to take place during this year’s training camp. Safety Sean Davis? Even if Davis is signed to an extension later this summer, and thers currently no guarantee that will happen, it’s not going to be a very lucrative one at all. The same goes for defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, and maybe even cornerback Mike Hilton and center/guard B.J. Finney.
As far as potential players who could plausibly receive the franchise tag from the Steelers next offseason, the list probably begins and ends with outside linebacker Bud Dupree. However, Dupree needs to first earn getting that franchise tag from the Steelers and that certainly would be a sight for sore black and gold eyes to see.
Will a new CBA include things in it that will force the Steelers away from their long-standing contract structure practices? Fully guaranteed contracts, maybe? I have a hard time believing that NFL owners would ever agree to fully guaranteed contracts for all players, but I guess stranger things have happened. Regardless, we have a few years left until the current CBA expires so Florio, and everybody else for that matter, might as well just accept the fact that the until forced to do so, the Steelers aren’t going to change the way they structure contracts in regard to guaranteed money for non-franchise quarterbacks.