It’s fitting that Le’Veon Bell’s new rap album is called “Life’s a Gamble,” because the running back definitely took a big gamble in 2018 when he decided to pass up on millions of dollars and sit out the entire NFL season.
It’s hard to say exactly how much money Bell lost out on by sitting out, but we do have a better idea now that the details have been released from the Jets. Although the deal is worth $52.5 million and could max out at $61 million if Bell reaches every incentive, the only numbers that really matter are the guarantees in his contract, because that’s the only money Bell will definitely be getting.with the
According to NFL Network, Bell’s contract includes includes $25 million in fully guaranteed money, which means he’ll be walking away with at least that much, even if the Jets cut him after the 2019 season.
So how does that stack up to the Steelers final offer from July 2018?
Let’s take a look. Oh, and to get the most accurate numbers from the Steelers offer, we’ll be taking into account reports from multiple different outlets.
Year 1 (2018)
Last summer, Bell and the Steelers had until July 16 to hammer out a long-term deal. That deadline was imposed by the NFL and it applied to all players who had been hit with the franchise tag. Just before the deadline, the Steelers offered what: five years, $70 million.
Of course, like every NFL contract, the devil is in the details. The problem Bell had with the Steelers is that they generally operate under a system of rolling guarantees, which means they don’t guarantee much money after the first year. According to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, the Steelers deal would have paid Bell $20.5 million guaranteed up front in Year 1. According to Pro Football Talk, that money would have been paid through a $10 million signing bonus, a $10 million roster bonus plus his base salary.
Basically, if Bell had signed the deal with the Steelers, he would have pulled in a guaranteed $20.5 million in 2018, no matter what happened. Even if he got injured, Bell would have been paid that money. Bell’s other option with the Steelers would have been to sign the franchise tag, which would have paid him a guaranteed $14.5 million for one year.
- Money he would’ve earned under Year 1 of new Steelers contract: $20.5 million
- Money he would’ve earned under franchise tag: $14.5 million
- Actual NFL money earned: $0
Year 2 (2019)
Although the Steelers have rolling guarantees, there’s almost no way they would have cut him after just one year. If that happened, then Bell would have been the big winner, because he would have hit the free agent market in 2019, plus he would have made $20.5 million for one season with the Steelers.
According to NFL.com, if Bell was on the roster for Year 2 of his deal, which would have been a near certainty, his total guarantee would move up to $33 million over the first two seasons of his new Steelers contract, which averages out to $16.5 million per year.
In his new Jets contract, Bell will make $14.5 million in his first year of the deal, which is kind of ironic, because that’s how much he skipped out on by not playing under the franchise tag in 2018.
- Money he would’ve earned through two years of Steelers contract: $33 million
- Actual NFL money to be earned after one year with Jets: $14.5 million
**NOTE: If the Jets were to cut Bell after one season, that $14.5 million number would shoot up to $25 million since the Jets would have to pay out his full guarantees even if they were to release him.
Year 3 (2020)
Heading into Year 3 of his Steelers contract, Bell would theoretically be in a good spot. If the Steelers cut him, then he’s made $33 million over two seasons ($16.5 million per year), plus he’d get to hit free agency in 2020. If the Steelers were to keep him for the 2020 season, then his total guaranteed pay out through the first three years of his contract would jump up to $45 million, which averages out to $15 million per year.
Under his contract with the Jets, Bell will make $11.5 million in 2020 ($6.5 million base salary, $5 million roster bonus), which brings his two-year total up to $26 million.
Now, here’s where things get interesting. In both contracts, there’s an easy out for each team after the 2020 season. Although the Jets have Bell under contract through the 2022 season, there will be no guaranteed money left in the deal after 2020, which means the Jets could cut him after that season and only take a dead cap hit of $4 million. If that were to happen, Bell would make $26 million for two seasons of work.
As for the Steelers, the rolling guarantees only went through the first three years of the contract. That means if the Steelers dumped him after the 2020 season, he would have walked away with $45 million for three seasons of work and then he would have been able to hit free agency again before turning 30.
- Money he would’ve earned through three years of Steelers contract: $45 million
- Actual NFL money to be earned through two years with Jets: $26 million
Assuming Bell didn’t suffer any catastrophic injuries during his time with the Steelers, he likely lost out on roughly $19 million for sitting out the 2018 season. The odd thing about this whole situation is that it was just last year where Bell loudly proclaimed on Twitter that not even $60 million would be enough to get him to play for the Jets.
Now, not only is he taking less, but he’s doing that after potentially missing out on $19 million for sitting out 2018. One reason Bell sat out last season is because he was afraid the Steelers were going to overwork him, but who’s to say that won’t be happening in New York? If it does happen, Bell’s body will be getting beat up, but for less money.
Of course, Bell might not care about losing out on all that money, and that’s because he got to spend the past nine months doing whatever he wanted.
Water skiing? Check.
Make a rap album? Check.
Hold a? Check.
No, money can’t buy everything, but let’s be real, $19 million can definitely buy a lot. He could have even spent that money to buy a bunch of copies of his own rap album.