Per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Le’Veon Bell’s representation agreed to a 5 year deal on July 17 that Bell then decided not to sign, very much to the surprise of the Steelers organization
The Tom Pelissero report the next day indicated that Bell was offered offered a 5 year deal that averaged over $12 million per year and paid him $30 million over 2 years and $42 million over 3 years. I tend to believe Pelissero’s reports in general and this one in particular because it is consistent with information I have gathered elsewhere. I see articles from sites contending that the report was dubious as attempting to gain favor with the athlete because the ideas they present are both inconsistent with the way that the Steelers do business and entirely misleading about the contracts negotiation process. That’s my two cents.
If we consider that the reports are at least fairly accurate, and I believe that they were, the deal was front loaded and as a practical matter guaranteed Bell that he would make $30 million over two years. Yes, a practical guarantee and a full guarantee are two different things. But, when you look back at earlier contracts the Steelers have done, Lamarr Woodley’s contract in particular, the Steelers are incredibly unlikely to invest big money into a player in year one of his contract and then not pay out the roster bonus in year two. Once that bonus is paid, the player is all but certain to earn his salary that year. As I have explained before, the Steelers are not going to pay an Antonio Brown $6,000,000 in March and then release him later to avoid paying his $7,875,000 salary.
It’s more likely that Bell would earn at least $42 million over 3 years given the Woodley example.
Woodley, who’s hamstring exploded in the first year of his 6 year, $61.5 million deal, earned $36 million over 3 years before ultimately being cut despite never being close physically to the player the Steelers thought they had signed after that injury.
In short, the Steelers could have cut him after year one, some said then that they should have done so, but they did not.
Bell is not the first player to have his agent agree to a deal and then renege. The most notable example of this is Rod Woodson. The Steelers thought they had a deal and had even scheduled a press conference to announce it, only to have Woodson back out at the last-minute. Woodson then played a one year deal with the San Francisco 49ers for less money than he would have earned per year with Pittsburgh before hitting the market again the following year.