Le’Veon Bell shouldn’t show up

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Despite some curious and confusing accounts this week regarding who knew what and when and why the Steelers would tip their hands regarding a legal position that could allow them to franchise-tag and trade running back Le'Veon Bell next year, the various choices and consequences seemingly have come into focus, once and for all.

Bell can show up by Tuesday and make up to $6 million in base salary for the balance of the year and head to free agency in March, or he can not show up and head to free agency in March. Either way, he’ll be a free agent in March.

At this point, then, the smart move would be to stay away.

If, as the Steelers reportedly would concede, Bell’s franchise tender in 2019 would be the average of the five highest-paid quarterbacks even if he doesn’t play at all in 2018, Bell should treat the balance of his forfeited pay as insurance of sorts on the large payout he’ll undoubtedly receive on the open market in 2019. Even if the Steelers apply the transition tag on Bell (if he doesn’t show up, the transition tender would be $14.54 million), the Steelers most likely wouldn’t match any offer sheet he signs with another team, due both to the dollars that will be involved and the manner in which the deal is structured. The Steelers won’t fully guarantee money beyond the first year of a veteran contract, which means that a two-year or three-year full guarantee at signing would be enough to scare them away from matching. (Besides, the fact that they have James Conner under contract for two more years at bargain-basement rates makes Bell a luxury the Steelers don’t need to afford.)

So the Jets or the Buccaneers or the Browns or some other team with the cash and cap space would put together an offer that would dwarf the value of the deal that Bell rejected in Pittsburgh, and he’d have extreme financial security through 2020 and possibly 2021.

What about the $14.54 million he’s losing this year? He’ll never earn that back, right? Technically, yes. But as a practical matter Bell arguably has extended his career by a full year by taking a full year off, reducing the wear and tear and allowing him to tear it up another year deeper into his 30s. Think of it as an advance on his eventual retirement. If he still plays for as many seasons as he would have played if he’d played this year, he’ll ultimately be in a better place financially, because the deal he signs with a new team in March 2019 will be much better than the deal he could have signed with the Steelers in July 2018. (And, trust me, the deal he signs in March 2019 will be much better than the deal he could have signed with the Steelers in July 2018.)

If Bell shows up, he would expose himself to up to seven games of injury risk, capped by ultra-intense postseason games, which would pay him peanuts in comparison and put him in the awkward position of choosing between assuming enhanced injury risk or packing it up and walking out in January.

So with more than $8.5 million already gone, Bell should give up the other $6 million and prepare for the many millions he’ll be getting in March, if as we all now know (and barring a switcheroo from the Steelers) he will hit the open market next year even if he doesn’t show up this year.

That’s where we are. It doesn’t matter how we got here (unless the Steelers and the NFL do indeed intend to eventually argue that Bell isn’t eligible for a quarterback-based franchise tender in 2019 if he doesn’t show up in 2018). Faced with showing up and making $6 million or staying away and preserving the ability to cash in next year, the smart play is to cash in next year.

Some may say that other teams will view Bell differently if he doesn’t show up at all. To that I’d say, “Hogwash.” He already made a business decision to skip 10 weeks and give up $8.55 million. At this point, the best business decision is to skip seven more weeks, give up the balance of the franchise tender, and wait for one or more of 31 teams to offer him something along the lines of $18 million per year with upwards of $40 million fully guaranteed at signing.

Which will happen. Great players rarely get to the open market unfettered. When they do, they get paid. A lot. Regardless of whether they made any past business decisions aimed at preserving their current and future earnings.

84 responses to “Le’Veon Bell shouldn’t show up

  1. Bell is out smoking herb and doing E. He is not going to be the same player when he comes back. Buyers beware…

  2. Bell is a fool. He never should have held out at all. He will never get this money back. The franchis tag is in the CBA and there was no way he was getting a cent more than the franchise tender unless he signed a long term deal. Once that deadline passed, he was getting the tender and nothing more.

    His “protest” won’t change anything either. Players were already upset about the franchise tag so it was already going to be a big part of the next CBA negotiations.

    Time is an important factor in finance. It’s not just losing the salary, it’s also losing all the investments that could have been made with the money. That’s why agents always fight to get money up front.

    And after all this, i doubt he will end up getting much more than the franchis tag or the long term deal the steelers offered.

  3. Why would Bell trust that the Steelers won’t use a tag on him? Just because a report said they wouldn’t? The most logical outcome all along has been he shows up week 10. Enough with the conspiracy theories.

  4. easy for us to tell someone whos already spat at $8 million to continue that act and
    give up another $6 million.
    If he had played this year and had the year James Connor is having (easy comparison)
    he would be getting what he wanted next year, a wad of guaranteed money.

  5. I’ll bet after the smoke clears and his career is over it will be shown that he would have earned more money in total if he signed the franchise tag. Another genius was Dez Bryant who turned down the Ravens offer which would have guaranteed him $11 million. His Saints deal after the injury will net out around $600,000 because he never played a game.

  6. Bell chose this route, why in the world would he risk collecting 6 million and injuring himself now? Any major leg injury puts him out half of next season. No way he reports after Dez just hamburgered his achilles.

  7. He doesn’t want to risk himself to playing 7 games of football? But he’ll jetski and play pick up basketball games?

    Trust me, he doesn’t see the end of the contract that he signs in 2019. He may get a lot of up front bonus money, but whoever signs him will be dropping him before that contract runs out because only a stupid team that likes to make splash March moves will overpay him.

  8. Take the year off and add it to another year he can play into his 30’s? Said by a non-athlete…it doesn’t really work that way.

  9. Can’t stand the Steelers but I wouldn’t hate seeing James Conner as MVP leading the Steelers to a Super Bowl win while Bell sits on the couch on his way to a mediocre 2 years before being cut by the Radiers..

  10. “the transition tender would be $14.54 million), the Steelers most likely wouldn’t match any offer sheet he signs with another team”

    They won’t match it but it will drive the price up and reduce available cap for other players on a possible competitor.

    “as a practical matter Bell arguably has extended his career by a full year by taking a full year off, reducing the wear and tear and allowing him to tear it up another year deeper into his 30s”

    I would argue against that theory. With each passing year his body is still aging and he’ll still inevitably slow down and lose a step due to age, not due to getting beat up carrying the ball.

  11. Tuesday can’t get here soon enough. Hopefully, Bell is a no show. The Steelers aren’t tagging him again, so who cares. I think Conner, as well as some “fill in” RBs on other teams have proven you don’t have to break the bank for that position.

  12. Bell just needed to avoid the disaster situation which is showing up and getting injured and ending his career before he gets a big final contract. And he successfully did that.

    Really any star that plays in Pittsburg is a fool. You will get more guaranteed money somewhere else. And I mean is Pit a nice place to live?

  13. Bell has let 8 million dollars sit on a table and everyone thinks he is smart. Exactly what did he accomplish except not play, sit out a year, and hope everyone feels he is as important as he thinks he is.

  14. NFL owners have not historically looked favorably upon players who hold teams hostage for selfish reasons. I would be very surprised if some owner and team throw big money and guarantees at someone who screws over their team and teammates. I think you’re theory is flawed.

  15. It might buy him another year on the back end making the veterans minimum. Ask Adrian Peterson what it is like getting a deal when you are over 30

  16. Bell obviously was smart enough with his money to afford to hold out.

    But if he’s that smart, he should also understand the time/value of money. Not getting $15 million this year is a huge setback to his net worth. He’s also had to draw down his personal wealth to finance his “vacation”.

    I figure he’s down about $20 million if he doesn’t report next week.

    Next thing to consider – is how much any team might be willing to pay someone who chose to sit out for a year?

    And the myth about extending his career is just that – a myth.

  17. And one more thing… Conner’s performance with the same supporting cast will very likely have convinced other teams that Bell ISN’T worth that huge contract the author of this piece seems convinced he’ll get. Bell’s YPC dropped to 4.0 last year. His explosive plays (>20 yards) were almost non-existent. He’s had past injuries, drug concerns (when he HAD incentive to stay clean to get a good contract). He’s botched this situation in almost every way possible.

    It only takes one stupid team to pay him. But my guess given all of the above is that he’d have been way better off taking the Steelers offer and/or buying the insurance I mentioned and playing this year.

  18. So the Jets or the Buccaneers or the Browns or some other team with the cash and cap space would put together an offer that would dwarf the value of the deal that Bell rejected in Pittsburgh


    Jon Gruden is very fond of elite backs. Expecting the Raiders to go after Bell this off season.

  19. If my favorite team offered him a $40 million deal with $18 million guaranteed I’d be pissed. That feeling has nothing to do with this holdout saga either.

  20. Why would any team want Bell? His talents are vast. But he is a cancer to his team. He does not want to go to training camp. He misses pre-season. He does not show up when he can sign a one year deal…..who would want that in their locker room.

  21. >> But as a practical matter Bell arguably has extended his career by a full year by taking a full year off,

    Thats just plain wrong.
    Players age and lose speed and quickness.
    By this line of reasoning a good RB can sit out every other year over a 6 year period and “extend” their career by 3 years (for the 3 missed years). Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

  22. Bell needs to show up, get his year of service, collect his money and see if the Steelers blink.

  23. He didn’t hold out. He just didn’t sign the tender. Earl Thomas held out even though he was going to get paid. Bell isn’t getting squat. That is his choice.

    He just lost 14 million that he won’t be around long enough to make back up. If we use the idea that he didn’t age his body a year, then if the Steelers faltered without him, he would’ve been set. However, Conner came around and is thriving. Bell just lost millions of his next deal. He never was going to see the money he thinks he is worth – between being a cancer, injuries, and suspensions it would be hard for any team to justify it.

    Then you have the fact that while he isn’t getting the mileage on his body, his speed is what made him great and that is one year closer to leaving. So he won’t see the entire contract he gets.

    How much more do you honestly believe he will get than what the Steelers offer? Even at 2 million more a year, it would take 7 years to make it back and he doesn’t have that left. He misplayed it. He can choose to stay home and that is viable, but I would consider taking the money and running. The Steelers wouldn’t use him much anyway as Conner has been doing well.

  24. He needs to show he still has it to get the big money next year. He’s coming back IMO. He will sit for a couple weeks behind Conner and then probably split time for the rest of the year.

  25. Never has made it through a whole season.
    Missed multiple games, including playoff games.
    Missed the beginning of one season due to suspension.
    Is one drug test away of missing an entire year.
    Lied to teammates. Lied to team. Not a team player.
    Has a patient running style, one that will require a good offensive line.
    Will be 27yo at start of next season. Has tons of mileage and injury filled past.
    God help any team that signs him to a large guaranteed deal.

  26. We are talking about a dude that gambled on himself….lost that bet in the eye of public perception because James Conner matched or bettered your stats…then wants to maximize what he still has left? You lose dude. You will NEVER be worth 10x the salary of another guy who’s a team first player. You’ve stayed away to avoid the random drug test. News flash…Pittsburgh doesn’t want you. We’ll never want you. We lost to the patriots with you and will lose without you. Change is better – espresso with a player that has balls. Go away to the obscurity of a less than (what you already turned down TWICE long term contract) and fade off into nothing. You don’t pay my bills dirtbag. Good riddance. Go James Conner and go Steeler nation. #teamfirst.

  27. I disagree that a running back is extending his career one year by taking a year off. You can’t bottle that youth and reopen it later, not at that position.

  28. Maybe Bell wont be as good elsewhere and wash out of the league. Maybe he has a career ending injury. He wont make that money up. And some teams wont want him because he is a selfish player. Either way, who cares. He missed the game of football more than the game of football missed him.

  29. Agreed. He got too big for his britches. Glad to see some of these “big shots” take it up their keester.
    The Steelers are really cooking and adding Bell, may not be the best move in keeping a cohesive team.

  30. Flawed logic,

    No matter how you look at it. He never gets the money he lost this year back. He just doesn’t. Not only that but he is a year older. He isn’t more valuable at the end of his career as he is at the beginning. Ask Peterson about the salary of an aging RB. Here is a common sense comparison:

    Two cars on the lot… same make and model one is 2018 one is a 2019. Which one is worth more. I am betting you don’t tell the dealership you will pay the same for the 18 do you as you will for the 19. Why?

  31. There’s just one thing wrong with this suggestion.
    That’s the fact that he’s been exposed as a selfish athlete who puts himself first.
    No one is gonna write a big check for this type of RB. No one.
    He’ll sign for 8 maybe 9 but that’s it.

  32. I love the idea that he’s definitely going to get a better deal next off season then he would have got this offseason.

    If anything you see the fact that the Steelers have looked pretty damn good since October and Bell’s replacement haslook pretty good at at a cap hit that is close to 5% of Bell’s over $14 million tag.

    Given that Bell is one good hit from being ruined forever (or at least losing a significant portion of what makes him special), I can’t see teams wanting to pay him more then $8 million/year knowing that he has 3 major strikes against him.

    Strike 1: injury history, had significant injuries in 2014 and 2015.
    Strike 2: suspension history, he’s one hit of the chronic from being sat for a season
    Strike 3: he’s shown he’s willing to hold out if he doesn’t feel he’s paid his worth. Remember when TO held out a year into his 7 year contract? If Bell had an MVP season, what’s to say he shows up for his contracted pay.

  33. Trade him too Arizona or NYJ or LA Raiders in the off-season. Let him languish in mediocrity for the remainder of his career behind bad O-lines with bad QBs. His HOF potential is gone due to pride and stupidity.

  34. I’m confused. A guy who would have been out of football for a year who has shown he is easily replaced and made himself a headache is going to get a bigger deal than the one he was offered?

  35. Running back is the most replaceable position in the game. There are so many guys just waiting for a chance. It’s a luxury to have a super talent like Le’Veon. He’s fun to watch, but what’s the real impact? The Steelers are 6-2-1 without him. What are they with him? I gotta say the exact same.

  36. Steelers please sign him for a ridiculous amount of money….I want the circus in Tomlinland to continue, its fun to watch

  37. It will be interesting to see if other teams see missing a year as anything other than a big negative. My guess is he will not find a team willing to pay him what he thinks he’s worth, in part because Conner has shown we may have been overwhelmed over valuing Bell.

  38. You are right though. Some team will be stupid and give him money he never earns. Likely career ending locations:

    He probably gets a 4 year deal that looks good on sport center. Then gets released after two underwhelming years.

  39. Any team that signs him to a lucrative long term deal will be gambling on him being the best running back money can buy and this is not a sure thing. A team with a weak O line may not be able to give him the blocking he needs. His running style is to stay back and wait for the O line to open holes for him. An obvious counter measure to that type of running is to blitz and tackle him for a loss while he is still in the backfield.

  40. The RB market isn’t what it used to be and I doubt a team will break the bank for him. Especially after 1 year of not playing. He wants QB money or at least RB+WR money. He won’t get that but he will get paid something nice, just not what he thinks he deserves.
    As a coach said…Parcells maybe…You are what your record says you are…. and he will be worth whatever someone says (And signs) him for.

  41. “He hasn’t showed up because he most likely will fail the drug test”

    While nobody but Bell knows if he would fail (if tested), let’s play The If Game– what if he knows right now that he absolutely would fail a drug test if he reports and signs the tender? The Steelers would have to pay him, and how soon would he be suspended? Surely he’d like to be suspended for some games this season, but would those games count against his accrued number of games toward a full season as the CBS defines it?

    An interesting question to consider.

  42. I don’t know why they don’t just let some other team take the cap hit… clearly the replacement is damn near as good for far less

  43. Look, none of us will really know who is right or gave the best advice until this all shakes out and we see what kind of deal he gets and how his career goes in the future, if he gets injured, how much more guaranteed money he gets, etc. Almost every “could have” scenario floated in the comments is plausible. The guy is not under contract and it’s his choice how he handles this, just as the team has their choice of options.

  44. I’ll never understand the amount of money that some people will spend for something that can be gone in one play. Here you go sir, you new $8m airplane! BTW, it may just stop flying all of a sudden. A bad wheel on a RB is a smidgey bit more common than a plane crash. Hey I get it’s their money and I can understand them wanting to pay him that much with Bell being so appreciative that running fast equals a giant pile of $.

    Now there’s this other guy who’s been pretty successful and he takes short $ every time so that his team can consistently beat teams that are paying one guy way more than all the others. It’s great for morale as well when those guys get that you don’t have their back.

  45. Negative: Bell has once again proved he is a Money First /Team Last guy. Sure, some perennial awful teams will pony up for this selfish player…..and he will be a wealthy inconsequential RB…..but smart teams avoid Me First players. And very smart teams never back up the truck for a RB. Good to see Pitt play this one like a smart team for once. Now if the Steelers would only learn how to defend the pass against Tom Brady

  46. It’s funny how so many of the people are bashing Bell for trying to get long term stability. The deal he turned down from the Steelers only had 1st yr guarantee so if Bell would have played and got seriously hurt under the deal they could cut him at any time. For those talking about team 1st why don’t you put your money where your mouth is, go in to work on Monday and tell your boss youbwamt to take a pay cut to help the company’s profit line and so they can hire another person or 2 to help at your job. If Bell had a contract and held out this would be different but he doesn’t. Everyone complains when someone holds out and says “well you shouldn’t have signed the contract” Bell doesn’t sign a deal he doesn’t like and now fans are telling him he should have.

  47. Harrisonhits is right, the theory that the year played later in his 30’s will be equivalent to one played now in his 20s is, indeed, hogwash.

    If he doesn’t come in and goes FA in March, he will want to live in bubble wrap until then. And avoid radon.

  48. What if, with no OTA’s no training camp no practice he gets hurt
    see: Earl Thomas or Dez Bryant.

  49. So the Jets or the Buccaneers or the Browns or some other team with the cash and cap space would put together an offer that would dwarf the value of the deal that Bell rejected in Pittsburgh, and he’d have extreme financial security through 2020 and possibly 2021.

    Let me get this straight…he’s holding out hope the Jets, Bucs or Browns will give him a truckload of money? I can already hear him whining about playing on a losing team while collecting his big paycheck. I think you can cross the Browns off that list though. They have a back they are happy with…happy enough they traded Carlos Hyde away.

    What about the $14.54 million he’s losing this year? He’ll never earn that back, right? Technically, yes. But as a practical matter Bell arguably has extended his career by a full year by taking a full year off, reducing the wear and tear and allowing him to tear it up another year deeper into his 30s.

    Technically no. You can never really earn money back you have thrown away. He may make enough money to make it worth throwing away the money he could have earned this year but I doubt it. Also, the assertion that he lengthened his career by a year by not playing this year is puzzling. So if he took five years off he’d lengthen his career by five years? No. He may not have the wear and tear but presuming there’s only so much a body can take what makes the difference if he gets that wear and tear this year as opposed to next year. The important thing is Father Time. He’ll never get this year back and he likely wasted this year in the hopes of getting a huge deal–which I don’t think is coming after watching how James Conner has played.

  50. Two huge ifs in the assumption that Bell will make back the money he lost this year by taking the year off: 1) if he will extend his career by taking the year off; and 2) if he doesn’t suffer a career limiting injury. As for extending his career by a year at the money Bell could make now–very unlikely, a player isn’t the same at 31 or 32 as at 26. Adrian Peterson had a year off due to his child abuse issues. Peterson, while still able to play, is not the player he was when younger, and no one would pay him $14M now. Peterson is a physical beast, and was better in his prime than Bell.

  51. I’d like to see Bell show up this week and have the Steelers use him on their scout team for the rest of the season and playoffs.
    Then he shows what a baby he is by complaining how he is used.
    Or maybe let him return kicks and see how many he actually returns.

  52. Using the logic above, more players should take seasons off so that they can play deeper into their 30s when higher salaries are in play. That assumes of course that players don’t lose speed, strength and sharpness by sitting out. Football is a game that needs to be played to stay great. Assuming you can pick it up again later without dropoff is foolhardy.

  53. It’s very risky for a RB to trade a year in his 20’s for a year in his 30’s but hopefully it works out for him. RBs definitely earn their money with the pounding they take.

  54. With RBs becoming plug n play and the salary cap what it is…..does anyone on here believe that any team will pay Bell 14-18M a year with guarantees when players like James Connors can be had for minimum salaries?!

  55. Hey SundaySwami Bell’s teammate has done just that. Brown restructured his deal and took less so they could sign Bell and he no showed. Steelers offered Bell a contract in 2017 and 2018 and he turned em both down. I’m curious what the going rate is for a 28yr old RB (when he plays next season) who’s missed a lot of time throughout his career either due to holdout, suspension or injury. I’m very curious what that rate will be considering how much other RB’s who are younger and more durable make. Bell holding out was a business decision and not all business decisions are smart decisions. Bad teams with cap space may throw a ton of money at him and he will probably take it. He will be stuck on a crap team that isn’t going anywhere, no protection around him and an organization that isn’t going to do much to help him out. He can go to a bad team and ride out his career into mediocrity. James Conner has proven that he can do, with this team, What Bell can do and be better at it. Oh and at almost 14 mill less a year. Peace out Bell, enjoy what’s left of your career

  56. Your assumption is that anyone would have any interest in signing Bell to a massive contract after he takes the year off. Add into that how would his new teammates feel after he bailed on the teammates of his former team.

    Teammates need to be able to depend on their fellow teammates. There needs to be trust. I think Bell is going to have to rebuild that no matter where he ends up.

  57. lbhero34 – again try understanding the contracts offered instead of just the overall number. The Steelers offered Bell deals both years that only guaranteed that 1st year salary and moving more. So it would be no different than the franchise tag he was already guaranteed. If the Steelers would have offered him a deal with a signing bonus that actually guaranteed multiple years of the deal it would be different but they didn’t. If you make 60k this year and I offer you a deal for the next 3 yrs for 100 million but only yr 1 is guaranteed and in that year you will make 60k would you think that’s a good deal? No because after year 1 they would cut you.

  58. He has never contributed in the playoffs due to frequent injuries. Time to say say buy buy, and good luck elsewhere

  59. No one is offering Bell more than what the Steelers offered this year. The Steelers took a 2nd year 3rd round draft pick, placed him at Bell’s position and is doing as good or better than Bell has done the last couple of years. Both the Jests and Bucs will be picking in the top 10 next year to pick up a good RB from the draft and save a whole lot of money that could be used at other positions. Good cornerbacks, DL and WR, to go with a good QB are more important than a RB, especially for what Bell is looking for.

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