With the NFL season all wrapped up everything has gone silent about the disastrous news that was always looming over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rewind to the end of 2017-18 season. The Steelers running back, Le’Veon Bell came off an All-Pro season where he was on a franchise tag for twelve million dollars. Heading into the 2018 season Bell was trying to negotiate for a big contract to get paid as he sought fit. The Steelers offered seventy million dollars over five years, with sixty-seven percent of the money coming within the first three seasons of the deal. However, Bell thought that was not enough and wanted more. The Steelers however thought that was not reasonable and elected to give him the franchise tag again for 2018. This turned into the multi-week debacle that we saw unfold during the season that ended with Bell not showing up at the required deadline to play this season and earn fourteen and a half million dollars.
Now as a fan looking in you are just confused on what happened and might just make an assumption on what you think of the case. It is almost unheard of that a player sits out for the whole season and loses out on millions of dollars because they didn’t get millions more. However, by taking a deep dive into the NFL CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) it is interesting how this issue breaks down and in the end will make you see eye to eye with the Steelers. After looking into the incident it is clear that the Steelers did a lot of things right or in good faith so that they could meet in the middle with Bell’s demands. Bell might be a little too money hungry, but certainly not enough to take fourteen million dollars this past season.
For starters the meaning behind a franchise tag is not necessarily a bad term for players in the NFL. When a player is given a franchise tag that means the team is willing to pay their player, “the average of the top five salaries from the player's position or 120 percent of his previous salary, whichever number is higher (Benne, 2017).” This is a one-year deal that franchises are using while trying to negotiate a long term contract with players. Now obviously for a super back like Le’Veon Bell this would be a starting point to work with the Steelers, but after already having the tag and wanting more he was fed up with it. Now with the year being up the Steelers are most likely going to see Bell walk away from their program and sign with another team who is willing to pay him the big bucks.
Now knowing that information it is clear the Steelers aren’t breaking any rules that the CBA of the NFL has laid out. The organization is providing a fair alternative, while they were trying to work with Bell on a contract. In my opinion they gave him a great deal with the seventy million over five years that was front loaded. As a NFL running back you only have a certain number of years in your prime before the organization is looking for the next upgrade at the position. While Bell might be in his prime now things could change within the next five years for him and even three years. The front loaded contract would have gotten him paid before he started to fade out in the league. However, I also see Bell’s side for more money especially if the Steelers wanted to keep him as a steady part of the offense especially with Ben Roethlisberger on his way out soon. With James Conner now taking over the backfield and Bell not looking to stay in Pittsburgh it will be interesting to see where he might end up this off season as a free agent who hasn’t played in over a year.