Since the deadline for signing Le'Veon Bell to a long-term deal expired one month and one day ago, the Steelers periodically have tried to make Bell look greedy and unreasonable, from leaking some (but not enough) details about their last, best offer to periodically calling him out for not accepting the one-year franchise tender and showing up for camp to, most recently, making it known that the Steelers had a deal in place with Bell’s agent, but that Bell refused to sign it.
Some may say Bell is behaving stupidly. I’m more inclined to think he’s a genius. Because his tactics, taken together, suggest that the Steelers won’t be tagging him again in 2018.
Why would they, after everything that has happened this year? He won’t show up for the offseason program, he won’t take a long-term deal, he won’t show up for training camp, and he’ll wait until (possibly) the last possible minute to report and still get every penny of the tender. With the tender moving to $14.5 million next year (a 20-percent raise over his current number), the Steelers may not be inclined to do the dance again.
Advantage, Bell. He gets $12.1 million for four months of work and then he gets to hit the open market unfettered in 2018. Unless the Steelers are willing to do once again a dance that has so clearly irritated them in 2017, especially since Bell is one of the rare guys who will push back against the team’s habit of making the rules and having the players blindly comply.