In connection with the Fourth of July holiday nearly two years ago, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell unveiled his contractual demands with a rap song.
“I’m at the top and if not I’m the closest, I’m a need 15 a year and they know this,” Bell said in the tune called Focus.
As he closes in on that target (a freestyle rap posted last year updated 15 to 17), he has a new song. Called Target, which has debuted just in time for the Memorial Day holiday.
Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has transcribed some of the lyrics, which seem to contain a message for the Steelers: “So they put me on the tag, alright. Definitely not going to trip like I that bad guy. Wonder why they treat me like the bad guy. You say I ain’t the best, but that’s a bad lie. I’m a do what I want just leave me alone. If I don’t do what you want then you want me gone. I’m a say you being real aggressive, the way you switch up on me real impressive.”
The Steelers have opted twice to keep Bell from becoming an unrestricted free agent by applying the franchise tag. Bell responded last year by exercising his right to remain away from the team until Labor Day, at which time he showed up and got his full $12.1 million salary. But he has been criticized for not being in football shape, and pressure continues to be applied to get him to show up for offseason and preseason work.
“You think if I sit out, I’ll be sluggish,” Bell says in the new song. “You think they won’t pay me because of drug tests. For a fact, I ain’t never failed one, that’s on me. You so worried about the weed, what about them PEDs?”
The Steelers and Bell have been unable to come to terms on a long-term deal, in part because a contract based on the franchise tag dramatically exceeds the market at the position. If no deal is done by July 16, Bell will be on track to make $14.52 million this season and to hit the market next March, since the Steelers would have to offer him the quarterback franchise tag to keep him around for 2019.
And he’d be hitting the market with $26.7 million in pre-tax salary for 8-9 months of work over a 17-month period.
So even though Bell may feel like a target, his decision to stick to his principles and wait for more has put him ahead of the game, giving him a chance to become the running back equivalent of Kirk Cousins next March.