There’s been a notable absence from Pittsburgh Steelers mini camp this week. All-world running back Le’Veon Bell hasn’t shown up to camp because he’s recovering from offseason groin surgery, but there’s more to it than just healing up for training camp.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Bell is unable to attend Steelers mini camp because of his contract situation, or lack there of.
As a player yet to sign his franchise tender, Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell is not allowed to attend Pittsburgh's mandatory minicamp this week.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 13, 2017
Bell does have the option to sign a waiver to participate, but it’s unlikely that he’ll do so considering he’s not physically capable as of now.
Schefter’s update should put Steelers Nation at ease for now, but Bell’s absence from mini camp has put Bell’s contract situation at the forefront. The Steelers have made it abundantly clear that they will do whatever they can to make Bell happy, going so far as to say that they plan to make him the highest paid running back in league history.
REPORT: Steelers looking to make Le'veon Bell highest paid RB of all time 👀🏈https://t.co/iZiNCvTcsb
— The Swish News™ (@TheSwishNews) March 3, 2017
There hasn’t been much news about Bell’s contract negotiations outside of the mutual desire of both parties to come to terms on new contract, but making a deal that is beneficial for both Bell and the Steelers will be an uphill battle. The Steelers can and most likely will use Bell’s suspension and injury history against him during negotiations, but Bell has a considerable amount of leverage when the specifics of the franchise tag are taken into account.
Bell will make a fully guaranteed $12.1 million next season if the Steelers are unable to come to terms with their star running back. To put that number in perspective, Bell’s franchise tender will make him the league’s highest paid running back by almost $4 million over the second highest paid runner in the league.
— Dan Pizzuta (@DanPizzuta) June 13, 2017
If he stays healthy and has another All-Pro caliber season in 2017, Bell would then be subject to a 20% raise if the Steelers decide to tag him again for the 2018 season. If the two parties are unable to come to a deal after another year of negotiations, Bell can opt to play the 2018 season under the franchise tag and test his value on the free agent market.
Basically, Bell could potentially make a little over $26.5 million guaranteed over the next two seasons if he is unable to come to terms with the Steelers and find a team that’s willing to meet his demands. The Steelers have until July 15th to make sure that doesn’t happen and negotiations will most likely go down to the wire. Both sides are confident that a deal will get done, but at the end of the day, the Steelers will be the side conceding the most.
Mike Esposito is the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos Staff Writer at Endzonescore.com. Follow him on Twitter @espo6891