Le’Veon Bell has decided to sit out the entire 2018 season, a move that could be a colossal misstep or a savvy gamble, depending on how his next contract plays out. And reports are coming in that Bell will be looking for a very hefty contract indeed.
Le’Veon’s demands: More than $17 million a year
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday morning that Bell would be seeking more than $17 million a year, with a heavily guaranteed, front-loaded contract. Bell could be seeking an $85 million deal with up to $45 million guaranteed, per Rapoport.
That deal would put him in the range of the NFL’s top running back earner, Todd Gurley, who’s holding $45 million in guarantees on a four-year, $57.5-million deal, with an average annual value of $14.4 million.
Will Bell get those kinds of numbers? It depends on how NFL scouts judge his decision to take a year off in the prime of his career. Rapoport pegged the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans as teams that could vie for Bell’s services. It’s worth noting that the Steelers also could re-enter the picture, slapping the transition tag on Bell and matching any deal offered to him.
Bell, Steelers tried to close a deal
That tag was an important reason why the Bell negotiations fell apart, according to a separate ESPN report. Bell’s representatives indicated he was willing to report had the Steelers agreed not to use the transition or franchise tags on Bell; the Steelers declined to make that assurance.
What that sets up is something that only the NFL, in its infinite focus on minutiae, could have crafted — a battle over accounting. Briefly put, there’s a question over whether the transition tag would be for $9.5 million, which would be based on Bell’s salary this year, or $14.54 million, which is 120 percent of Bell’s last salary from the previous franchise tag he played under in 2017.
There’s much to be decided here in Bell’s own situation, but the franchise tag question is one that will vex both owners and players’ reps, given that it could either give teams more control over players, or free up players to hold out, or even sit out, if they’re not getting what they believe is market value.
All this, and a jet ski too. The Bell story’s not anywhere close to done.
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