Heading into his 10th NFL season, and now having competed for two different organizations, it’s fair to say that Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden has been around the block a bit. In other words, when he has something to say within his purview, you can generally trust that he knows what he’s talking about, whether it’s about the game or the business of football.
He touched on both yesterday concerning his former teammate, current New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell, when he made an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show. He made it clear that he understood Bell’s position, but when pressed, also acknowledged that it created issues.
Separating Bell’s decision not to report as an extension of complications relative to his contract offer (e.g. the franchise tag) from Antonio Brown’s issues, Haden told Eisen, “Le’Veon’s situation was completely different because, just the way the Steelers do their contracts”. He said he felt Todd Gurley III’s contract changed things, and he added that he could see the logic for Bell.
According to reports, the Steelers offered Bell a five-year contract worth $15 million per season, on the high side of the multiple numbers reported. But that total figure of an estimated $75 million included only $20 million in virtually full guarantees, including a $10 million signing bonus and a $10 million roster bonus that would become due just days after signing (in other words, it served a bookkeeping purpose).
The contract that Bell signed does offer slightly more in virtually fully guaranteed salary, but appears otherwise to come up somewhat short of the reported high-side offer the Steelers extended to him last summer. Nevertheless, at the time, it was low enough for him to choose not to sign it, which was the first domino to fall in him not playing at all in 2018.
That led to weekly questions that his teammates had to field, and a number of them grew visibly and verbally strained in being volunteered to take up that task. That has become even more apparent this offseason. Eisen asked Haden if he felt having that aspect, and others, gone from the locker room in 2019 will be valuable to them.
“Yeah. Yeah I think it is”, he said. “I think we’re gonna be able to just literally focus on who’s in the locker room, who’s in there. Because now my boy, I like AB—he’s with the Raiders. I love Le’Veon—he’s with the Jets. You know what I’m saying? So now we can just really figure out what we got going on. [James Conner] be the best version of himself, [JuJu Smith-Schuster] be the best version of himself. Defense step up, and [Ben Roethlisberger], you know, come out and ball”.
The Steelers will no longer have the on-field talents of Brown and Bell, but they also won’t have the off-field complications that they brought along with them, and which have seemed to become more apparent in the aftermath of the dissolution of their relationships with the organization. Haden’s not the only one to see the advantages in that.