There are no moral victories in life and there definitely are no moral victories in professional football and All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell learned that lesson after a long drawn out journey that ended him getting paid at less than market value instead of resetting the market like he had hoped to do.
He will now be a member of the New York Jets after agreeing to four-year deal worth $52.5 million and $35 million guaranteed that averages to about $13.1 million per year, which is less than Los Angeles Rams’ All-Pro rusher Todd Gurley’s deal that he signed last offseason worth $60 million and 45 million fully guaranteed over four years. While his deal can max out at $61 million if he meets certain incentives, that doesn’t provide him the level of total financial security that he coveted.
Arguably the most dynamic player at his position in the league and in the last decade has now found his new home after refusing to play a single down or even suit up for practice for his former team in the Pittsburgh Steelers last season under the franchise tag.
He held out all of training camp prior to the 2017 season as well but he ended his holdout just one week into the season. By sitting out all of last season, he decided to forgo the entire $14.5 million that he would’ve made under the tag. Bell also received a contract offer from the Steelers the last offseason that would have paid him $70 million over five years but declined it because of the lack of guaranteed money and he believed he was worth more than even that.
He did so in an attempt to take a stand for the elite players at his position that account for a huge chunk of their team’s offensive output, believing that he was worth more than what most, including his former team, believed a player of his caliber at his position is valued at.
While there were many who criticized Bell for sitting out the whole year, that included many of his former teammates in Pittsburgh, he received his fair share of kudos from those that supported his action to play the only real card that NFL players have in an attempt to secure a long-term commitment.
However, nearly all of that support was predicated on his hold out resulting in him achieving everything he set out to accomplish when he began this process. During his year-long hiatus from football his character, commitment, fitness level and love for the game was constantly being subjected to speculation in the media as he did not make any public appearances on any media circuits.
Now that he has found himself a new deal on a new team, his decision will be dissected and debated for months and even years to come because while he will receive the big bucks from the Jets, he ultimately failed at his prime objective of resetting the running back market. Many believe he settled on his deal with New York after his market was nowhere near as hot as he and his representatives had thought it would be. The Jets got one of best playmakers in the league, but Bell appears to have lost his bet that he rolled the dice on nearly a year ago.