Cap Class is a series where I break down the cap to find the amounts associated with the roster, dead money, or future cost of players. Dollar amounts and cap cost may not be exciting, but they can be interesting when you look inside the numbers.
Le’Veon Bell returned to Pittsburgh, and many Steelers fans were excited to speculate the possible return of Bell to the Steelers. Not so fast, Steeler Nation!
Bad puns of the title of this article aside, the Steelers cap space is no laughing matter. The Steelers look like they need to make cuts to get under the salary cap as Spotrac.com currently has them at $2M over the cap.
Looking at Bell’s current contract, he signed a 4-year $51M contract with $27M guaranteed, including an $8M signing bonus. So his salary and roster bonuses for year 1 & year 2 can not change. He’s already been paid his bonuses and salary for year 1, so for this year (year 2), his numbers are as follows:
$8.5M base salary
$5M in roster bonuses
Bell’s cap carries a $2M prorated portion from his original signing bonus, but the Jets would be responsible for the entire signing bonus ($6M remaining), so the Steelers would not have to account for it at all.
A deeper look into Bell’s roster bonus shows an actual roster bonus amount of $4,968,750. It is above $4.5M previously listed because of Bell’s LTBE (Likely to be earned) bonus the previous year of $31,250 for each game he was active. He was inactive and bowling for one game last year, so that bonus money was forfeited. The entire 2019 LTBE is the responsibility of the Jets, since it was directly linked to last year’s performance, and will not be included in a trade. Moving forward, the Steelers would have to account for the LTBE bonus of $500k per season. So of the remaining $4.5M roster bonus, $2M is due 3/31/20 and $2.5M is due 10/15/20.
So the numbers the Steelers would need to clear to sign Bell are:
$13.5M if signed before March 31st
$11.5M if signed after March 31st
A slightly better deal considering the Steelers could cut Bell after the 2020 season with zero dead money.
It is highly unlikely that Bell is signed this year since that would mean the Steelers would not be able to resign Bud Dupree. Even though signing Bell is a long shot, if the Jets were to do something crazy, like cut Bell, the Jets would be responsible for all of his bonus money and salary in 2020, since that portion of his contract is guaranteed ($13.5M = $8.5M Salary + $4.5M Bonuses + $500k LTBE Bonus). Plus, all of his $6M prorated signing bonus would be accounted for this season to create a dead cap hit of $19.5M. Even with $56M in cap space, the Jets are unlikely to make a move like this.
So barring a crazy move by the New York Jets general manager, Le’Veon Bell should be playing 2020 in Green and White, and not Black and Gold.
Should the Steelers find a way to resign Le’Veon Bell? Leave your opinions below.