Le’Veon Bell made news this week by going on a Twitter rant ripping some of his former teams. He took shots at both the New York Jets, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in this tirade. He may actually have some legit gripes about his time in New York. That franchise has been a complete dumpster fire over the last decade. In terms of the Steelers however, it is clear Le’veon Bell made a mistake by leaving. Unfortunately he may never understand, or admit to that mistake.
In 2017 Le’Veon Bell was on top of the world. He was coming off a season where he ran nearly 1,300 yards, while racking up almost 700 yards in receiving. This was perfect timing as his contract was set to expire.
Bell was determined to reset the running back market this time around. In 2017 he has played under the franchise tag, and had no plans to repeat this in 2018. His goal was to be paid a minimum of $15 million per season which would have shattered the market for his position. The Steelers final offer came in just shy of that goal at $14 million per season. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Le’Veon Bell admits he nearly signed that offer. https://www.si.com/nfl/2019/03/20/leveon-bell-i-was-so-close-signing-steelers-final-contract-offer
After turning down the Steelers offer, Bell decided to holdout the entire 2018 season rather than play on the franchise tag once again. That tag was worth a guaranteed $14.5 million, a sum he would never be able to get back. After the 2018 season ended, the Steelers chose to cut ties with their All-Pro running back. This meant Le”Veon Bell was now a free agent, and could finally seek out the deal he was looking for.
It wouldn’t take long to realize Le’Veon Bell made a mistake in judging the running back market. Few offers came to his liking. Eventually he would have to settle for a deal with the Jets that paid him less per season than the final Steelers offer. This is where the semantics of the deal came into play, and the debate of whether or not he had made a huge blunder by not staying in Pittsburgh.
For their part the Steelers didn’t handle this situation all that well either. There was a time during this mess where Pittsburgh could have gotten something in a trade for their super star running back. Looking to blame someone for the Le’Veon Bell situation? Try the Pittsburgh Steelers Instead Kevin Colbert and company dug their heels in, and eventually got nothing in return for losing Bell.
After signing his new deal in New York, it was a bit of a shock to learn the deal had an annual average value of only $13.5 million. That was less than the offer Bell turned down the previous year from Pittsburgh. Add the $14.5 million he had lost by not playing under the tag in 2018, and this was starting to look like a disaster. Le’Veon Bell’s representation went immediately into spin mode once the details of the Jets deal were announced.
The Bell camp pointed to the fact that he had secured $27 million in guaranteed money, more than double what the Steelers deal offered. The contract from Pittsburgh did however pay $33 million over the first two seasons. Given the fact that Bell almost assuredly would not have been cut in the first two years of that deal, it made that $33 million essentially a guarantee. Again this is all semantics on which deal was better. Each side has a legitimate argument as to which contract was more favorable to Bell. The difference between the two was not enough to overcome the situation Bell found himself in New York. And no amount of spin could change that.
The New York Jets franchise was not what you could call an ideal landing spot in 2019. They had just come off three consecutive losing seasons. The Jets had also just fired their coach Todd Bowles. In his place they hired Adam Gase, who had just flamed out as coach of the Dolphins. Word would get out that he was not in favor of the Bell signing. Gase would have a rocky relationship with his star running back which lasted only one and a half seasons. The Jets eventually cut Bell midway through the 2020 season.
There seems little question that Le’Veon Bell’s career would have been much better served had he stayed in Pittsburgh. This is something he is still reluctant to admit even today. In his recent Twitter rant he still maintains the Steelers should have paid him…..
Whether it’s denial, or saving face, Le’Veon Bell is in no mood to admit his mistake. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Bell remains insistent that he made the right choice.
The truth of the matter is neither side benefited from the way this played out. The Steelers are still looking for Bell’s replacement having burned a number one pick on Najee Harris. And as far as Le’Veon Bell’s career goes, well let’s just say he peaked in 2017. That would not have been the case had he stayed, even if he won’t admit it.