Cap Class: Le’Veon Bell and His Contract Offer, $10M Guaranteed? Really??


It has been reported that Le’Veon Bell was offered a 5 year $70M contract to remain a Pittsburgh Steeler. On July 16th, Bell and his agent rejected the Steelers offer. Now if the contract reported is correct, this averages to $14M per season. It would be the highest contract ever tendered to a running back, yet it was still turned down.

One of the most interesting aspects of this contract happened a few days later, when the guaranteed money was reported to be $10M. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that figure for a second, and I’ll explain why. First off, the only guaranteed money in most contracts, is the signing bonus. The signing bonus is a tool teams use to spread that money out over the length of the contract, so they aren’t hit with the total amount against the cap, the year the player is signed. If it is to be believed, that $10M was the signing bonus, it is a small number to spread out over 5 years, or $2M/year. This is small change, and goes against the way the Steelers create contracts.

Bell is scheduled to make $14.5M this season. When new contracts are formed, I’ve never seen a player earn less guaranteed money, than what was expected to be earned under their current contract. At the very least, $15M is the lowest signing bonus I could believe, since it is more than he is making this season.

For a perfect example of how the Steelers write contracts for star players, we can look at Antonio Brown’s contract he was given last season. Brown signed a 5 year contract for $68M and $19M was guaranteed as a signing bonus. The $68M Brown was offered is very comparable to the $70M Bell was offered, and both are 5 year contracts. As a result, the structure of the contracts should also be similar, meaning the signing bonus, at minimum, would be $19M.

I would expect the signing bonus to be in the $20M range with low salaries the first couple years, spreading out $4M/season over 5 years. This is in line with the way the Steelers create contracts. I could even see the signing bonus higher than $20M, but there is no way I can believe the signing bonus would be $10M. It just doesn’t make any cents…

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