4pm Eastern came and went and with it went the chances that Le’Veon Bell will be a Pittsburgh Steeler after 2018. For the second straight season the Steelers and their Pro Bowl running back could not agree to a long-term deal. Bell, once he signs the Franchise Tag, will play for $14.544 million this year.
Via Le'Veon Bell's agent Adisa Bakari: "His intention was to retire as a Steeler. But now that there's no deal, the practical reality is, this now likely will be Le'Veon's last season as a Steeler."
More: "It became clear the Steelers wanted to pay the position, not the player."
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 16, 2018
If last year was any sort of guide, we can expect that Bell will not sign the tag and make himself available until after the final preseason game. While he is reportedly in excellent physical condition, that was also the case last year. Being in great shape is one thing, being in football shape is another. In his first three games last season, ‘rusty’ was the best way to describe him.
Numerous outlets reported that negotiations were down to the wire as they were last year but not even the earlier stories of Bell being willing to lower his asking price could result in a deal.
There are going to be many people upset with Bell. They will scream (largely via social media) at him for being greedy and for caring more about himself than the team and they have that right. Is this all about Bell wanting to establish a new market for running backs? Is it all about him wanting to be paid as a number one running back and a number two receiver? It doesn’t matter.
Football careers are short. Contracts are not guaranteed as they are in other sports. I do not in any way hold it against Bell for trying to get everything he believes he is worth. Where I take issue is the fact that he wants so much more than what he actually deserves. I appreciate that he values himself so much but I think his demands, based on what other top backs make, are a bit high.
So What Does the Future Hold?
For all intents and purposes this will be Bell’s final season in the Black and Gold. The possibility does exist that he could be tagged for a third year but the cost of that would be astronomical and there’s no way the Steelers would pay it. What’s more likely to happen is that Bell will create a bidding war among the teams with the most cap space.
The New York Jets and Cleveland Browns would have to be considered front-runners based on expected cap space and need. Could the Steelers still sign him to a long-term deal? Sure, but that’s highly unlikely. He’s just going to want too much money and the Steelers’ track record for signing players that have turned them down once is a short one. Signing a player that turned them down twice would be unprecedented.
The one factor we all must consider is that we are assuming Bell will have another excellent season and will remain healthy. I certainly hope he does because that means more chances for success for out team in 2018.
I’m sure reports will come out in the next few hours about just how close the two sides were. That won’t matter because what’s done is done. What all of us should take from this is quite simple; the Steelers do things a certain way and they aren’t changing that for anyone.