Now that Le'Veon Bell has missed a regular-season game, the week-to-week watch begins for his eventual return. And at this point the thinking is that the impasse will end only if/when Bell caves in and signs his franchise tender.
The Steelers, by all accounts and reports, won’t be budging, either by offering him more money under a one-year deal (which they can do), by trading him (which they can do, with his cooperation), or by rescinding the franchise tender. So this ends only when Bell ends it, and he has until the Tuesday after Week 10 to end it.
So when will he end it? If he’s concerned about his workload, skipping games becomes sort of a reverse insurance policy, with the premiums being the checks he doesn’t get and the policy proceeds being the contract he signs in March 2019. Before harping on the fact that Bell is giving up $855,000 per week, remember that this is the gross. After federal taxes, state taxes, and fees, Bell is losing more like half of that. While that’s still a lot of money, there’s a lot more money to be made in six months, when he becomes a free agent.
Which leads back to question of when and whether he’ll cave. If Bell will trade one paycheck to preserve his body, why wouldn’t he trade two? Three? Up to and including 10?
Some may say the performance of James Conner, who had 192 total yards from scrimmage, will be enough to get Bell to blink. And maybe it will, but only because if Conner becomes entrenched as the starter, Bell can show up and collect checks without risking the 30-plus touches that Conner got today, and may get going forward.
In the end, Bell would be trading roughly $4.5 million in net income to avoid 10 opportunities to suffer the kind of injury that 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon suffered at practice last week — and the kind of injury that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers may have suffered tonight.