It has been a long offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They signed wide receiver Antonio Brown to a monster contract extension. Then there was the brief scare centered around Ben Roethlisberger possibly retiring. One of the more interesting stories still looking for a conclusion is the contract status of running back Le’Veon Bell.
Bell is arguably the best running back in the NFL. An argument could easily be made that he is worth every penny and more that he’ll get paid under the franchise tag this season ($12.12 million), and he should get at least that for years to come.
However, at the same time, an argument could be made that no running back, is worth that much. Just don’t tell that to David Johnson, who thinks Bell should get paid like a quarterback.
So, what will the Steelers do? Will they pay the man or will they wait and see if he can stay healthy for a whole season first?
Jacob Klinger at Pennlive.com thinks it would be a ‘sizable surprise’ if Bell did not play under the franchise tag this season. He makes an interesting point when it comes to the amount of money in question.
Bell is a week away from getting more guaranteed salary money than he’s seen in his life. And the Steelers are the same amount of time and space away from locking up arguably the best running back in the league for about the same price they would pay for him if they threw a long-term deal at him.
Should they pay him $12.12 million this season, it is highly unlikely that he will be willing to take less money on a long-term deal next offseason. So, why not pay the man and get it done now?
The answer to that is easy. It’ all about leverage. The team feels that it has it because of Bell’s extensive injury history and his suspensions for violating the NFL’s drug policy. His last three seasons ended with vaious knee injuries. If a team doesn’t think a player will hold up for the duration of a contract, it would be foolish to sign him to one.
At the same time, Bell is one of the most productive running backs in the NFL. One of the few who is as much of a threat in the passing game as the running game. Without him, the Steelers offense tends to flounder. With Ben Roethlisberger a threat to retire and with the money invested in Antonio Brown, the Steelers need to win now.
Both sides have a decent amount of leverage. This makes it appear as if this standoff could come down to who blinks first. If Bell believes someone will pay him on the free agent market, it will not be him. It’s a risk to play under the franchise tag, but it may be a risk worth taking for him.