The Pittsburgh Steelers started their latest session of OTAs by going to ‘Dave and Buster’s’ for some team bonding and fun. Just four days later, the talk has turned back to the actual business of professional football. More specifically, it’s turned to the contract situations of Alejandro Villanueva, Stephon Tuitt, Le’Veon Bell and perhaps even more.
If you haven’t been following along this offseason, the Steelers have negotiations with these young men to consider and as is normally the case, each is unique and vastly different from one to the next.
In the case of Alejandro Villanueva, he’s an Exclusive Rights Free Agent. That means he can only negotiate with the Steelers. He can sign his tender, which amounts to $615,000 in 2017 or he can sit out. It really is that simple. Obviously, he and his agent are trying to get a long-term deal done with the team but Kevin Colbert and company don’t have to be in any hurry. Next year, Big Al is a Restricted Free Agent. The team can put another tender on him and, at the very least, have the right to match any offer her receives. It’s more likely, that they’ll put a 1st or 2nd round value tender on him that would guarantee valuable draft compensation should someone sign him away.
Right now, the top 13 left tackles in the NFL earn $10 million per season and up. The man that Al replaced, Kelvin Beachum has a contract that averages $8 million per season. Villanueva and his camp feel he’s worthy of that much but I don’t believe the Steelers do, and furthermore why should they? At 28 years old, Big Al will be 30 before he’s up for a big contract and who could blame the front office if they didn’t want to pay that at that point?
The scenario above gives Al some security now and the team some flexibility in future years if needed. It represents a good compromise.
Le’Veon Bell, who has been a no-show so far at voluntary OTAs, has been given the Exclusive Franchise Tag and has yet to sign his tender. Right now, Bell is slated to earn $12.1 million in 2017 should he sign the one-year offer. Based on our sources, the two sides have not talked since early March. Should the two-sides not be able to come to a long-term deal, Bell could refuse to sign the offer. He may withhold services until he gets the deal he desires, or the team agrees to add a clause to his 2017 contract that stipulates the organization will not use the franchise tag on him in 2018.
The challenge with arriving at a contract for Bell that all sides can agree on is that he has yet to complete a full season of football, for issues related either to injury or suspension. Therefore, his representatives’ view of his value and that of the Steelers, may be different as of right now. Bell’s side wanting more money fully guaranteed than the Steelers feel comfortable promising him given his history.
Then there’s Stephon Tuitt who is entering the final year of his contract. He is saying all of the right things in terms of “letting his agent handle things” but just what does the future hold for him? Our Ben Anderson tweeted this today and it bears repeating here (in reference to the bottom tweet).
Shazier, Tuitt, Hargrave, Dupree, Burns & Davis all playing on rookie deals.
— Ben Anderson (@BenAnderson58) June 8, 2017
Where would Tuitt rank in terms of importance here? Ahead or behind Dupree? Shazier? The Steelers are always thinking about more than just now which means ‘down the road’ has to be entering their thinking. What that means for Tuitt, I’m not so sure of yet.
Contract talks this time of year are nothing new. The Steelers and all NFL teams go through this as regularly as there are traffic issues in Pittsburgh so my advice is to sit back and see what develops.
Ben Anderson contributed to this article