It’s official. Le’veon Bell will not play for the Steelers in 2018 and there is a very slim chance he will return in 2019. As a Steelers fan, I hate to see him leave the team like this. I believe he’s a generational talent and hoped for years that his talent was the missing piece to our Super Bowl puzzle. However, I respect his business decision and am already looking forward to 2019 so I can watch the best RB in the league play football again.
1. Bell will sign with a team that has an established franchise QB
I think Bell is passionate about winning a Super Bowl, but he obviously wants a ton of money. There are teams that could blow Bell away with an offer strictly based on available cap space (Colts, Jets, Bills, Browns), but I think Le’Veon would be willing to take a smaller offer to play with a competitor (as long as he thinks its fair market value). I think he will value having a franchise QB that he can trust to perform at a high level during the last years of his prime. The window is closing for Bell to win a Super Bowl, and if he gets the long-term security he expects from this holdout, this could be the last contract he signs in the NFL.
Teams I could see Le’Veon signing with:
2. Bell’s holdout will have been worth it
Le’veon did an incredible job at staying relevant during the 2018 season. For someone who did not play a single snap of football, he was the most discussed topic from the preseason through week 11. I think forfeiting $14.5M will be painful to his wallet, but the contract he receives in free agency will set a new standard in the league. I think that he will average at-least $17M per year over the first two years of his contract, but I’m not sure that it will all be guaranteed.
I could see him receiving a few different contract structures:
5 years, $74.5M; $40M guaranteed – most likely front-loaded with around $17M in the first two years and $13.5M in the final three years with potential roster and performance incentives.
3 years (option after 1), $48M; $31M guaranteed, $15M signing bonus w/ $11M salary each year heavily focused on incentives that could reach up to 15M/yr.
These are knee-jerk reactions to the news that Le’Veon Bell didn’t report by the deadline on November 13th. I might come back and post new predictions as more news is released, but these are my initial projections of Le’Veon’s value and where he might end up in 2019.