Hailed as one of the best running backs in the league, Le’Veon Bell was looking for a record-breaking contract from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both sides could not come to an agreement this past offseason, leading to a franchise tag being put on Bell (a one-year contract that makes Bell the highest paid player at his position). There’s only one problem: Le’Veon bell has yet to sign the contract. It is unclear when, or if, Bell plans to end his holdout. One thing has been made clear in the past week, and it is that the financial implications for both parties could be drastic.
Bell’s franchise-tag tender is worth $14.544 million. For each week that Bell sits out, he is forfeiting about $855,000 per game (CBS Sports). To put that into perspective, Bell’s current replacement, and former University of Pittsburgh star back James Conner, is slated to make a little over $750,000 for the entire season. (Sportrac)
In week one against the Browns, Conner matched Bells single-game high from 2017 in total yards at 192. As far as the running back position goes, the Steelers felt more than comfortable moving forward into week 2 with second year back Conner. Bell’s teammates have said just as much, calling Bell out for not reporting to the team before their first game against longtime rival Cleveland Browns.
As for the salary cap as a whole, the Steelers are in a little bit of a predicament. Since they planned on paying Le’Veon all of his $14.544 million contract, they are now left with more money than anticipated. What they do from here likely depends on when Bell decides to show up, if at all. The longer his holdout, the more likely it is that the Steelers make a move from outside of the organization to bring in talent to help make a push for their seventh Lombardi trophy.
As someone who has followed Bell through his career as a citizen and fan of Pittsburgh, I can say that the mood concerning the running back has drastically changed over the past couple of weeks. Bell was still in good grace with the city. They still felt that Bell was their guy. That opinion changed when Bell decided to extend his holdout into the regular season. Losing his teammates trust, Bell has turned heel on the city, the one he once claimed to want to retire in. Teammates and fans alike are now rallying around Conner, and why wouldn’t they? A hometown hero who battled back from a fight against Hodgkins-Limphoma in
2016, he has a background that anyone could take inspiration from.
Le’Veon is slated to miss out on a lot of money. Ideally for Bell, he would make it through this season healthy, and then go out and test the free agent market, signing with a new team for the 2019 season. But at the cost of $850,000 per game, Bell is likely to rejoin the team at some point, especially since he has to sign by week 11, or suffer another year of being a restricted free agent under the Steelers (triblive).
Regardless, Bell’s recent decisions have had a major impact on the market as a whole for running backs in the NFL. Whether or not he gets as much money as he wants with another team remains to be seen. Bell most recently turned down the Steelers five-year deal that had over $30 million guaranteed over the first two years of the deal (sbnation). The Steelers are in a position where it is hard to see them continuing their efforts to sign him after the events of the past week. Now, Bell looks to find a new home in 2019. Until then, Fans and fantasy owners alike are hoping for the return of one of the most electrifying backs in the league. But don’t expect his return to be a heartwarming one in Pittsburgh, regardless of if he’s in the Black and Gold or not.