The Steelers running back refused to sign a deal his agent reportedly agreed to.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were blindsided on July 17. According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Le’Veon Bell’s agent and the team had allegedly agreed to terms of a 5-year deal. Shortly before the deadline, Bell refused to sign the deal.
According to Bouchette, the deal averaged north of $12 million per year, leaving a sizeable gap for the Steelers to overcome. Bouchette reports that the signing bonus and the guaranteed money was not disclosed. He did mention that Bell would have averaged $15 million over the first two years of the deal, though.
While the Steelers thought they had Bell locked up, him pulling away from the deal does not leave them without options. Due to the Steelers placing the franchise tag on Bell, he is only allowed to sign with the Steelers.
A year ago, Bell released a rap track called “Focus.” In the song, he talks about his salary demands, amongst other things. The lines most notable to Friday’s report, though are as follows:
Ima need 15 a year and they know this
so “no” Im not open to tlk about “focus” for what?
Bell appeared to mean it as well. Not long after he released the single, he released the following Tweet.
When the July 17 deadline passed, the only deal Bell could sign with the Steelers is the franchise tag. He could also sign a different one-year deal, but that appears unlikely. Bell does not seem to be happy about this.
Shortly after the deadline to sign the long-term deal had passed, Bell sent out a Snapchat video detailing his disappointment. He also posted the following Tweet:
While the market has fallen significantly over the last few years. The current highest-paid running back, Devonta Freeman, recently agreed to an extension worth $8.25 per year. The deal, if the leaked numbers are correct, would have placed Bell about $4 million away from the next highest-paid running back.
While the reported contract would not have placed Bell as the highest paid running back in NFL history, it would have been close. Adrian Peterson’s $97 million over 7 years will hold that claim for a while, as long as the Steelers have anything to say about it.
As with any release of terms of contracts that aren’t signed, keep the source in mind. While this is not nearly as bad as what the Redskins did to Kirk Cousins or how Bruce Allen handled it, Bouchette does not cite his sources.
This could be for a legitimate reason, but it could also be a piece designed to paint the team in a positive light. If the Steelers were fair in reasoning with Bell, it could be their hope that public opinion sides with them over the player.
While these are simply assumptions, they are opinions held by those in the media. Mike Florio of PFT brings this up. Josh Alpers, also of PFT, talks about the point that this could turn off Bell from signing future deals.
Ultimately, fans just want to see the best running back in football back on the football field. Whether he plays for the Steelers in the future or not, Bell is the best running back around.