The Pittsburgh Steelers and franchise-tagged running back Le’Veon Bell were unable to work out a long-term deal before Monday’s deadline. Bell publicly groused about the team’s offer. So the team privately leaked some of the details.
But not enough of them.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that the Steelers offered Bell a contract that carries an annual average of more than $12 million per year, with $30 million payable in the first two years and $42 million over three. While that’s better than nothing, it’s impossible to fully evaluate the quality of the deal without more.
Most importantly, how much was fully guaranteed at signing? With a $12.1 million in guaranteed salary for 2017 and the promise of a 20-percent raise for 2018 under the tag, Bell should have been looking for $26.62 million fully guaranteed over the first two years. The Steelers, however, typically don’t fully guarantee money beyond year one. Without knowing the full guarantee from the moment Bell inked the deal, there’s no way to know whether he should have taken it.
Also, what’s the cash flow in year one? By simply saying he’d make $30 million in the first two years, the Steelers adroitly glossed over the key question of whether Bell would make $12.1 million this year, $26.62 million, or something in between that. Absent that detail, there’s no way to know the quality of the deal.
Finally, what’s the term of the deal? Ian Rapoport of NFL Media chimes in that it would have been a five-year contract. This means that Bell would have been swapping one year at $12.1 million for one year at whatever the offer would have paid this year (we still don’t know) plus a team-held option for 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.
In leaking the information (which is a bit of a surprise), the Steelers want to seem reasonable — even if it makes Bell look greedy. Whatever the details of the offer were, Bell gets $12.1 million this year (if/when he signs the tender) and either $14.52 million next year or a shot at the open market. If the Steelers weren’t willing to give Bell any guarantees beyond 2017 and likewise not willing to pay him $26.62 million or close to it this year, he made the right decision.