Le’Veon Bell Fallout: Steelers, Conner, Jets

In becoming the first franchise-tagged player since the Chiefs’ Dan Williams in 1998 to commit to skipping an entire season, Le’Veon Bell ensured himself to be a key name in NFL business history henceforth. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert confirmed Bell did not sign his franchise tender on Tuesday and will not play in 2018. He’s likely bound for the 2019 market. Here’s the latest from the Bell front:

  • Pittsburgh’s plan will still be a transition tag, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets. This will be for Bell’s would-have-been 2018 franchise tag amount ($14.5MM), though it’s not like the Steelers will be prepared to match a big offer. They have James Conner in the fold for at least two more seasons on a third-round deal and have obviously been through quite the ordeal with his predecessor. The Steelers also won’t match an offer because of a preference to avoid other teams structuring their contracts, The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly notes (subscription required). A trade could commence, but with no draft compensation attached to the transition tag, Pittsburgh wouldn’t have much leverage here.
  • While Conner delivering the same level of production Bell did in 2017 may not look great for Bell’s status as a difference-making running back, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk not only expects the soon-to-be 27-year-old running back to match Todd Gurley‘s market-shattering contract (four years, $57.5MM, $45MM guaranteed) but expects Bell to land a better deal in 2019 (Twitter link). With the cap rising by approximately $10MM annually, this could happen. It’s a major risk, though, especially given Bell’s injury and suspension history (18 missed games, counting the playoffs, due to injury). Gurley had 914 career regular-season touches prior to signing his extension; David Johnson ($13MM AAV) had just 405. Although Bell will preserve his body for a hopeful megadeal, he has 1,541 career touches — the most of any active back through an age-25 season. While it’s likely Bell will command a lucrative pact, it’s not a lock he ventures into Gurley territory.
  • As for who will pay Bell, the Colts and Jets stand to possess more than $100MM in cap space in 2019. The Bills and Raiders will also have plenty of money to spend, though both teams have needs at several positions. Kaboly pinpoints the Jets, who don’t have much in the way of long-term solutions beyond Sam Darnold, on offense. While the Jets also have needs at just about every position on offense, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes they should sign Bell — even if it forces an overpay — citing Darnold’s rookie contract as a window for bigger free agent moves. This may be the team that would make Bell’s plan worthwhile. They gave out lavish deals to Darrelle Revis and Trumaine Johnson, and now Mike Maccagnan may be entering a win-or-else offseason. The Colts have not spent wildly in free agency in Chris Ballard‘s first two seasons, however.
  • Conner remains in concussion protocol, and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes neither Jaylen Samuels nor Stevan Ridley have shown to be on his level. Citing past Steelers running backs’ absences in playoff games — including Bell, who either missed or failed to finish four postseason contests over a three-season span — Bouchette notes Conner’s health now becomes even more important if the team is to finally break through after several January letdowns this decade.
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66 comments on “Le’Veon Bell Fallout: Steelers, Conner, Jets

  1. JJB0811

    If the Steelers tag Bell again, they’ll look more foolish than this season. Let him walk, take your comp pick and move on. It’d be on par w/ the noise that the Skins may have tagged Cousins last season after trading for Smith. They have a RB and the draft for BU’s.

    • jkoms57

      The Transition Tag means they can control his fate..

      Say Bell signs with the Ravens; Steelers can match, and trade him to wherever they want.
      They can get a 3rd from a contender, or blatantly dump him to the Jets or somewhere worse for a 5th rnder..

      Steelers will have last laugh.

      • JJB0811

        If they match an offer then trade, it kills their cap space. All that dead money for both ’19 and ’20 seasons.

        I don’t think Bell is as big a threat to Pit even if he signs w/ a division rival. Balt will be starting pretty much a rookie QB, GM, & HC. And the Browns and Bengals speak for themselves.

        • jkoms57

          Thanks. Wasn’t aware you can’t trade guaranteed money.

          So in other words the T-Tag is useless in this case?

          I don’t care what happens to Bell or what we’d get comped for him. Just thought it would be funny to match and trade him.
          Pitty that’s not the case. (unless there’s a separate stipulation for the transition tag)

        • jkoms57

          And ya,you’re right about Baltimore rebuild.. just a general rule that Steelers never want to see the Pats or Ratbirds get better on our behalf.

          Rather see Ravens plummet than have a chance of creating some type of funky annoyingly successful scheme with LJ & Bell in the backfield… All because they could allocate a huge contract towards Bell, as such a why not move for them with Flacco coming off the books.

          Obviously San Fran or Houston are bigger threats, but I’d still rather see him sign there than with Ravens just on principal.

          • JJB0811

            I’m not a cap expert by any stretch! But if you go to over the cap website, you’ll see that for the Raiders, they are sitting on $6.79m for Amari Cooper of dead space & the Jags are eating up $5.3m w/ the D flower trade.

            How much will carry over to next year, I don’t know. My understanding is for new contracts & how they are written, trading a person w/in a 1-2 years is bad cap business.

  2. mitchrapp

    Bell would be a fool to go anywhere near the Jets. They are just plain terrible. The Colts at least have a few play makers.

    • im hoping its mutual. Jets need to spend on the lines and can get 2 decent lineman for the cost of bell. With the way these rbs are coming out the draft, bell may end up wishing he took the deal steelers offered him in the offseason.

      • jkoms57

        Jets are the future of the division. Darnold is going to be elite as early as next year if they can get him some protection.

        Patriots have a year or two left, since they chose Tom over Jimmy.. don’t see Belichik hanging around much longer either.

        I don’t think signing Bell hurts them if they draft O-line… But just as any other team, why sign A RUNNING BACK to big money, when you can get similar production out of a league min guy.

        That’s why Steelers fans celebrated when he turned down their long term offer.
        Any big money, was too much for a rb..

            • carlos15

              I think the point was you can draft a no name guy like Conner and get production that’s pretty close or on par with Bell.

              • jkoms57

                You mean better than Bell in every category…

                And ya Pats are going to tumble once Brady & Bill both retire within 5 years.

                Brady already is trash this season.
                Gronk is done.
                Defense isnt good.

                They will not win another SB.

          • James Conner, Saquon Barkley, Ezekial Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Christian Mccaffrey, Joe Mixon all are over 100 yds and are on rookie deals.

            So would you rather pay a rookie and save say 10ish mil that you can put towards a solid to higher end player
            or pay bell 15 mil+ for 20 more yds a game. Which btw will probably come without the risk currently of one more drug suspension for a nice long time without the player.

            I really think when he gets his money he will be Hayneworth 2.0 and just dog it. Which is another reason i hope the jets dont get him. We already had that with Wilkerson. I could be wrong but thats my opinion on him.

      • mitchrapp

        Colts are not great but clearly better coached, have a proven QB, #1 WR, and two decent TE. The jets have none of that, just drunk fans

        • joeyrocafella

          As one of those “drunk fans” I’ll have to disagree a bit… The Jets just drafted a QB with a very high upside, they will also have a ton of money to go out and sign a WR of needed. On the other hand, Luck can’t throw the ball downfield anymore to his #1 WR. I’ll take our chances against the Colts Inna one game playoff even today

          • mitchrapp

            Very high upside, like so many other guys the jets have drafted or signed that went bust. You are better off being a giants fan. Lol

          • dcahen

            You’re not just a drunk fan, you’re a moron as well. The Colts would spank your Jets’ ass 9 times out of 10, & the one already happened. Luck can throw downfield, you haven’t been paying attention. Don’t forget they have your 2nd round pick also this year, it should be a good one too. This year’s 2nd round pick the Jets gave up is turning out to be defensive ROY. Great trade, all in all, for the Colts.

  3. madmanTX

    Other teams think Bell’s numbers were all Bell on his own. They’ll overpay for that level of stupidity. He’ll get his 100 yard games, but he is gonna have to work for it. Work for it so hard, it’ll make him realize how easy he had it with the Steelers. The real bet is going to be how many games he plays before Bell gets himself suspended again.

  4. The Ghost of Bobby Bonilla

    I think smart teams know that Conner already has more 100 yard games and 20+ yard carries than Bell had all of last season. Bell is already past his prime and well on the downside.

    He gambled big on a really dumb or desperate team backing up the Brinks truck and will probably lose big in 2019. BUT, it only takes one team to offer him something insane (see: Dan Snyder & Albert Haynesworth).

    That’s what Lev is banking on.

      • jkoms57

        Bell is a disaster for whoever signs him.

        He was already injury prone… Now he’s out of shape.

        Being out of shape at 27 isn’t out of shape at 22… You can get ur physique back but durability will stagnate.

        Have fun paying a guy who will barely play.

        • callingoutdummies247

          Barely play? Does your butt still hurt while wearing your Connor jersey?

  5. Senioreditor

    Imagine if the Saints or Packers sign him? He’ll gain at least 2500+ all purpose yards

    • afsooner02

      Both teams are decent at RB (Ingram, Jones) need more help on other side of the ball.

    • crosseyedlemon

      Wouldn’t make sense to pay both Rodgers and Bell megabucks when there is only one ball for the offense. The only advantage for Bell being with Green Bay is that the Packers and Steelers don’t meet for another 3 years.

    • jkoms57

      Kamara is way better than 27 year old Bell.. maybe even on par with Prime Bell ….
      Remember, most good RB’s retire around 28.

      So Packers might even be better off with their beast Aaron Jones.

      Bell is only good for a 1 year deal. He’ll get 5, so it’s going to be a disaster.

  6. CursedRangers

    In his entire career Bell has earned roughly $16M. The fact he walked away from almost that much for one year is crazy. More power to him though. Will be interesting to see how this pans out.

  7. forwhomjoshbelltolls

    I usually agree with Mike Florio, but he’s smoking rock if he thinks Bell is still going to get paid.

    What GM is dumb enough to look at what James Conner has done this year and what Lev has shown about his commitment to the game this year and still pay him big money?

    A guy who hasn’t played in almost 18 months by then…at the game’s least valued and most disposable position.

    Good luck.

    • tsolid

      Guy had 400 touches last year, but you talk about “his commitment to the game” because he won’t go take the same pounding w/o a NEW contract with GUARANTEED money. These post keep getting more idiotic by the second

      • Every body keeps saying without new contract. He had a contract that would be worth the most of any rb at the time twice and had a good portion of it guaranteed based on what was reported from both sides. i think it was 3 yrs 20-30 guaranteed around 45 total. He just wanted to be paid more.

        More power to him but i think it was a lapse in judgement and from the rumors even the agent was all on board for the deal knowing the market and him being one more suspension for a very long break.

        • tsolid

          The offer in 2018 had only 20 million in guaranteed $, with no guaranteed money after that. He shouldn’t have taken that

          • Rondon

            Well, he just gave away 14 mill guaranteed and if you think after holding a team hostage for half a season and even losing the support of his teammates sets up a big pay, you’re dreaming. Oh, he’ll get paid, but nowhere near Gurley money.

            • tsolid

              In what way did he “he hold his team hostage”? He had NO communication with them after training camp. It amazes me how people hold it against a guy for making a BUSINESS decision about HIS future. You ever make decisions about YOUR future, or do you just go with whatever anyone says YOUR value as an employee is?

              • mitchrapp

                Bell is going from a contender to a team thats going to be sub 500. He’ll be out of the league in a few years.

              • jkoms57

                The point is he screwed himself…

                Only a complete moron would think Bell came out on top ..

                He couldve pocketed 15Mil this year and still got his big contract next year.

                That’s why he’s an idiot. He legit got nothing from this except losing 15Mil….. All while showing how the Steelers O-line/system/QB inflated his stats.

                Ask Demarco Murray how leaving the Cowboys worked out.

                • callingoutdummies247

                  You are calling him an idiot?? You have a crystal ball? Career ending injuries can happen at any time. He plays a tough position that beats up a body. Ask Bo Jackson or Gayle Sayers how quickly a career can change…..

      • crosseyedlemon

        One Cowboy said Dez but he was quickly admitted to the concussion protocol program.

  8. Stephen Reese

    Bell will not “save” his body for a year. He will simply be a year older and a micro-step slower. Running backs shelf life is very short and he simply passed on one year of production he will never get back. Nothing against him and no dog in this fight. I just think he made an error in judgement.

  9. sluman46953

    yes im a colts fan. yes mack has played decent. but bell to indy next year. what are the odds and should it happen

    • Mack83

      It would be interesting, I can see it happening, but w/ a shady O-Line, he won’t be the Bell of Pittsburgh.

    • jkoms57

      Bell will have to run behind the same O-line as Mack…

      Jeez ppl act like their getting the Lev Bell the Steelers had…

      No, you’re getting DeMarco Murray on the Eagles.

  10. LordBanana

    In come the hordes of people who applaud teams for making business decisions and vilify players for doing the same.

    Steelers knew what they had to do to get Bell to play this year and they chose not to. Bell chose not to agree to play a year on a contract he didn’t like. Neither side did anything wrong, neither side broke any agreement. Bell never signed a contract.

    • JJB0811

      I agree with you. I couldn’t pass up $14m. Bell was certainly w/in his rights not to sign a contract he didn’t like.

  11. jessethegreat

    I don’t get all the hate directed at Bell. Yes he passed up $14 million this year but if he got hurt this year he would not receive another dime.

    We see time and time again where players sign for these huge contracts and are then cut with the highest dollar years left at the end of them.

    It’s his right to want more money guaranteed. If he signed that contract, played the first two years and then was cut no one would be arguing that the team should honor it.

    20 million in year 6 for a rb doesn’t mean crap if it isn’t guaranteed.

    • crosseyedlemon

      Your conveniently overlooking that players can guarantee nothing in return for the big contracts they ink. Some of the players do get cut because of injury but just as many get cut because they couldn’t deliver the performance that was expected of them once they hit the financial jackpot.

      • mitchrapp

        And the guarantee is spread over a number of years based on the player still being on roster

  12. dust44

    AJ Dillon from Boston College would look great as a 1-2 punch with Conner in the third round…

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