Devil will be in the details of the Le’Veon Bell deal

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While some of those who gnashed teeth and/or clutched pearls regarding the decision of running back Le'Veon Bell to sit out a full season do a bizarre victory lap on social media regarding the annual average of Bell’s new contract with the Jets, there’s an important factor regarding the contract that needs to be considered.

How much fully-guaranteed money will he receive at signing?

The initial reporting predictably glosses over that fact (after all, reporters who insist on trafficking in the truth often don’t get the scoops), describing the deal as carrying $35 million in guaranteed money, without specifying how much of that amount is fully guaranteed. Soon, we’ll know (and we’ll share) the full facts on how much truly and fully guaranteed money the contract carries in 2019, 2020, etc.

That’s ultimately what Bell was fighting for. The Steelers notoriously refuse to fully guarantee money beyond the first year of a contract. The Jets have a history of fully guaranteeing money into year two and, in some cases, beyond. (When he returned to the team after Super Bowl XLIX, Darrelle Revis had fully-guaranteed salaries in the first year and second year, with $6 million fully guaranteed in the third year.)

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette characterizes Pittsburgh’s final offer to Bell as carrying $33 million in guaranteed money “over the first two years.” But he doesn’t specify how much of that money was fully guaranteed at signing. Bouchette also says that Bell would have received $45 million over three years; without guarantees, however, it would have been foolish to conclude that the full $45 million would have been paid to Bell. A significant injury or noticeable slippage in Bell’s performance would have gotten him cut before the checks would have been cashed.

Without a long-term deal from the Steelers structured in a way that Bell regarded as fair and appropriate, Bell chose not to accept $14.54 million last year from the Steelers and not to assume the risk of an injury that would have kept him from getting a multi-year deal with a multi-generational fully guaranteed payment. While Bell didn’t get the $14.54 million, he still got the multi-year deal — and once the specifics become available it will be easier to completely assess the value of the two in the bush that Bell secured after giving up the bird in the hand.

That’s the point that so many supposedly informed observers are missing. Bell didn’t give up $14.54 million to get what he would have gotten last year. First, he ultimately may have gotten (by way of fully-guaranteed money) much more this year on a long-term deal that what he would have gotten last year. Second, there’s no way of knowing whether taking the $14.54 million last year ever would have kept him from getting a big-money, long-term deal; with a torn ACL or a broken leg or a ruptured Achilles, he wouldn’t have gotten whatever he’s getting from the Jets.

But that won’t stop those who want to rub Bell’s face in it from ignoring the broader context, no matter how obvious and petty the motivations for celebrating a football player’s failure to get as much money as he hoped to get may be.

25 responses to “Devil will be in the details of the Le’Veon Bell deal

  1. Nope, Bell costs himself millions by sitting out last year. The spin will allow work on those not paying attention.

  2. “A significant injury or noticeable slippage in Bell’s performance would have gotten him cut before the checks would have been cashed.” This is just an assumption, Shazier still got paid and Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree didn’t get cut even though the performance didn’t warrant it.

  3. Florio – how about considering the Steelers organization who historically take care of their own? I believe I read a stat somewhere that they pay 88% of second and third contracts for players they drafted. A torn ACL would not have resulted in getting cut unless it happened in year 3 of the deal which he would have made $40M in the first 3 years of the offer from the Steelers. He should have accepted the Steelers offer. I understand being pro player but you can’t ignore and decide to not trust the most trustworthy ownership in the NFL.

  4. Le Veon Bell ultimately didn’t get what he wanted which was to be paid as a running back/wide receiver. He’s a unique player who should help the Jets. As far as his time in Pittsburgh, as Coach Tomlin said “We need volunteers not hostages.”

  5. I have seen math and logic challenged people argue that “Bell will never make back” what he lost by not getting pounded for 18 pre-season and regular season games last year, in exchange for $14 million. Never mind (a) the injury risk, or (b) the basic wear and tear of an extra season as he would go into this free agent season. No . . . we are supposed to pretend neither risk existed to counter the reward of playing for less than market value.

    Bell did the right thing. Football is a business. He made a sound business decision that maximized his guaranteed money. And if unknowledgeable fans don’t like it, well tough.

  6. Paul says:
    March 13, 2019 at 12:18 pm
    Nope, Bell costs himself millions by sitting out last year. The spin will allow work on those not paying attention.

    —————————

    You like so many others are missing the point. Bell didn’t sit out last year to recoup the money he didn’t make, he sat out to get a long term deal. Everyone thinks he was gambling on getting some bigger deal but that was never in the cards and Bell along with his agent knew this. Bell wanted the security of a long term deal and he got that. If he plays for $15M last year and blows out his knee he doesn’t sign this long term contract. Bell played it safe which a RB should do because injuries are just a matter of when. Bell sat out a year in order to secure a long term deal that paid out more than the $15M and he accomplished that. It is easy to say that he should just play the year out and sign a long term next year but that totally leaves out the huge liability of injury at the position.

  7. Players realise more money playing for the Steelers than most any team.
    That’s because stable organizations do not roll over their roster frequently
    and hold on to their players, especially draft picks. Something the Steelers,
    like the Packers, are well known for.

    Bell will soon become and afterthought and fade away knowing
    he received a couple mil more in guarantees, but no chance for glory.

    In case of injury, they would have taken care of Bell, just as
    they are now doing with Ryan Shazier.

  8. kulik03 says:
    March 13, 2019 at 12:19 pm
    Florio – how about considering the Steelers organization who historically take care of their own? I believe I read a stat somewhere that they pay 88% of second and third contracts for players they drafted. A torn ACL would not have resulted in getting cut unless it happened in year 3 of the deal which he would have made $40M in the first 3 years of the offer from the Steelers. He should have accepted the Steelers offer. I understand being pro player but you can’t ignore and decide to not trust the most trustworthy ownership in the NFL.

    —————-

    Steelers ownership can’t be looked at the same way after the last couple of years. You can’t just trust someone will give you that deal.

  9. So anyone that questions Bell’s behavior is “petty”? He won’t last more than 2 seasons in NY.

  10. Bell won’t be a factor like he was in Pittsburgh,he sat out a year I don’t care what he or his agent ,trainer say he won’t be the same

  11. It it’s about money…. you have to take state taxes into consideration… Nj is 8.97% compared to Pa. 3.07 . Which equates to over 3 million during the course of the 4 year deal. This is before the consideration of The Governor’ new proposed budget which will increase the taxes of those making more than 5 million a year substantially. He going to lose somewhere between 4 and 5 million in state taxes alone. To play for the Jets just adds insult to injury.

  12. The argument isn’t about if he will recoup the money he missed last year. The argument is whether it was worth to play for the JETS for the same amount per year as the Steelers offered. The argument is whether it is wise to turn down money in hand during your prime. We won’t likely know the answer to these questions until the end of JETS season 2. He didn’t just lose 14.54 million to “save his body,” he lost a year of his prime. Father time catches everyone, it seems to catch RBs around 29/30.

  13. Both sides make arguments that reinforces why holdouts should actually be occurring more often.

    The players basically argue that he want a long term guaranteed deal because the odds are that if he accepts a short term contract, or franchise tag, they will get hurt and not be able to negotiate a big pay day contract later. True

    The owners argue that they can’t afford to tie up Cap Space on guaranteed money for players they know will likely get hurt and not be able to play in subsequent years. True

    Again; strangely not many hold outs.

  14. He isn’t getting $52.4 million over four years. He’s getting $52.4 over five, because last year he made $0. Do the math.

    I don’t care how much is fully guaranteed. He gave up a 5 year, $70 million offer to get 5 years and $52.4 million. Anyone who thinks Bell is better off under those circumstances needs their head checked.

  15. A guaranteed contract means if you get injured on the first day of OTAs and can never play again you still get the money whether that year or over the next 2 years. The Steelers never came close to offering Bell $33 million guaranteed despite what Bouchette claims. Bell more than doubled his money by not signing the tag $14.54 and then getting $35 million GUARANTEED from the Jets. He did the right thing for himself.

  16. Forget the money. How many millions do he need? The clown left one of the best organizations in the NFL for one of the worst. He wasted a year of the prime of his career to go work for the Jets?? Dude is dumb as a box of rocks.

  17. 700evelvet makes a great point: Bell’s deal is actually 5.9% less because of higher income taxes.

    In addition sitting out a year cost him because he didn’t play. And if he had put up great numbers, he cost himself even more. Yes the injury risk is real, but last time I checked you can insure for that.

    Bottom line it smells like he just wanted out of Pittsburgh.

  18. Bet on himself and lost about $20 million plus a year of his career. Still going to make a fortune though.

  19. Why wouldn’t a guy that has a big contract (with non guaranteed money) not just buy disability or some other sort of insurance against injury? Love how it is always framed as the player being wronged if he is cut during a contract. We all face losing our job every day if the money we are paid is greater than the value of what we produce. That’s life. A player wants a team to eat all the risk for an injury? If that is the case, just offer shorter guaranteed contracts and deduct from the player’s pay any insurance premiums to insure the contract. Then the guy and the team are covered. Or go 50/50 on it. Bottom line is the guy (like anyone in life) wants to be paid regardless of whether he is producing or not (injury). Businesses can’t operate that way forever. Someone has to produce.

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