It’s Tuesday and it’s Tag Day in the NFL. That means the franchise tags are being doled out today and that means that barring a miracle, Le’Veon Bell is about to be hit with the franchise tag. Again. And barring a miracle, he’s going to be pissed about it. Again.
This isn’t about a guy and a team not wanting each other. They want him and if you go based off his tweet from yesterday, he wants to be there: ‘Pittsburgh: the city that took in a 21-year old kid from small-town Ohio, the city I battled thru adversity in, the city that I became a man in. I love everything about being a Pittsburgh Steeler, and I want nothing more than to finish the rest of my career in Pitt! #26Forever’
This isn’t about that, this is about money. And specifically, the right number. As Bell told ESPN, “We’re not coming to a number we both agree on — they are too low, or I guess they feel I’m too high. I’m playing for strictly my value to the team. That’s what I’m asking. I don’t think I should settle for anything less than what I’m valued at.”
And he values himself at more than just a one-year tag of $14.5 million. And he’s got a point, especially when Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger are making more than that. Because there’s no denying Bell’s impact. He’s not just an every down back, he’s an elite every down back. And an elite wide receiver. He’s their number one back and their number two wide receiver. And wants to be paid like it. And he should.
He averaged nearly 130 yards from scrimmage last year, which is more than anyone since 1970. So…. He wants to be paid like the top back in the league and as their no. 2 receiver. The team will say, hold up, Devonta Freeman is the highest paid back in the league and we’re offering you way more than him. To which Bell will say… Something along the lines of, ‘you keep that cat’s name out your mouth. He doesn’t even play the same position I do. No one does. Because I don’t have a position. I play every skill position. And you need to pay me like that.
And again, he’s got a point. The guy is that good. So good, I almost don’t even care what his number is, he’s worth it.
The good news is that Bell claims “this year we are a lot closer than last year. In good spirit, I feel we can get something done. But unless something drastic changes, it won’t be [this week].”
The bad news is that the threat of sitting out or retiring is still on the table. I get that, too. Because of the NFL’s system and his position, he doesn’t have a ton of leverage. And when you don’t have the hammer, you have to make a hammer. And he’s trying like crazy to make that hammer. The question is: will he actually swing it? Would he actually sit out or retire if he doesn’t get the number that he wants? I doubt it. In fact, I’d be shocked if he did.
Not because he’s all talk. He’s not. He said that he turned down a three-year deal last year that would’ve been worth $42 mill, one that he was really close to signing, and even his mom wanted him to sign. But he turned it down because it wasn’t where he thought it should be. It’s one thing to turn down a deal that the team offers you, it’s another to turn down an offer that your mom likes with an organization and a city you feel strongly about.
But there’s a big difference between not signing a deal until just before the season and not playing the season at all and not getting that cash at all. $14.5 mill might not be what he wants and it isn’t what he deserves, but it’s a lot more than zero. I just don’t see this guy leaving that stack on the table. You only have so many peak earning years; and it can all be ripped from you in a second, which is why he’s pushing so hard for a multi-year deal. And while the Steelers would be smart to give it to him, because there is no other player in the league like him, they don’t have to give it to him. And I just don’t see this guy retiring or not playing this season in order to get what he wants. He’s different. But not THAT different. I’m not saying he’s not worth what he’s asking for. I’m saying, he’s not leaving $14 and a half mill on the table if he doesn’t get it. None of us would.