It’s here. Finally. And some would say thankfully.
The Tuesday after Week 10. The last day for running back Le'Veon Bell to join the Steelers in 2018. The NFL’s ultimate expletive-deleted-or-off-the-pot moment.
So what will he do? The smart money continues to be that he won’t, because the money he stands to make over the rest of the year ($6 million) doesn’t justify the potential impact of a serious injury on the money Bell will make as a free agent.
Yes, Bell will be a free agent in March. The Steelers can’t franchise-tag Bell again without giving him quarterback money, and the transition tag would be a meaningless exercise in delaying the inevitable (and, if anything, driving his price higher to guarantee that the Steelers wouldn’t match the offer). This means that he will get paid. A lot.
Every year, good players in their prime get great money in free agency. What do great players in their prime get in free agency? We don’t know because it never happens.
For Bell, the end result will be much more than the Steelers ever would have paid, and more than enough to justify the year away from the sport.
That said, nothing prevents Bell from deciding that he wants to play, injury risk be damned. But he has resisted the temptation to play for this long. Given his proximity to a generations-altering payday, Bell should continue to sit and wait.
There’s one final caveat for Bell to consider. Collusion happens in the NFL. It just does. And it wouldn’t be a shock to see the offers come in much lower than anticipated in order to not reward a player for staying away, since that would encourage others to do the same.
Still, at this point, Bell’s best play is to keep himself healthy for 2019, and to have his agent work multiple teams in order to get the biggest possible compensation package.