SportsPulse: While one superstar is leaving the Big Apple another is on their way to joining it. Le’Veon Bell is expected to be a New York Jet on a four-year deal worth $52.5 million.
“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”
Maybe Le’Veon Bell should reference that line from Harvey MacKay whenever he’s asked about his self-imposed 2018 NFL sabbatical.
It certainly appears the former Steelers star wasted a prime season of precious earning power while dragging his reputation and Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl hopes into a blast furnace.
ESPN reported early Wednesday that Bell has agreed to join the Jets, who offered the multi-dimensional Pro Bowler a four-year, $52.5 million deal.
So what did Bell accomplish after getting the opportunity he’d so desperately sought to shop his wares unfettered in the free agent market, a place where box safeties command pacts averaging $14 million?
► The $35 million in guarantees Bell secured establishes a record at the running back position.
► Relocating to a media market like the Big Apple could be a boon to his nascent rap career.
► And … well … hmmm.
And what did Bell sacrifice in the name of football capitalism?
► $14.54 million — guaranteed — to play another season in Pittsburgh.
► A legit shot at a Super Bowl ring … one he’ll probably never get with the Jets, who are cap-flush but perpetually rebuilding and still mired in a division owned by Tom Brady.
► The goodwill of Steelers teammates, several who clearly felt betrayed when he didn’t show up last season. NFL players almost never criticize a colleague, especially one in their own locker room, whenever it comes to business matters. But Bell’s egomania proved too much in Pittsburgh … and don’t think his new J-E-T-S teammates D-O-N-T K-N-O-W I-T.
► A buzzing demand for his services. As good as Bell is — and 129 yards per game from scrimmage for the duration of his career is historically good — a lengthy line didn’t form for a financially obsessed 27-year-old saddled with multiple suspensions for violating the substance-abuse policy.
► And, ultimately, Bell’s selfishness undermined his self-perceived worth. His $13.1 average annual salary barely moves him ahead of Arizona’s David Johnson, who signed a new contract in 2018, and leaves him more than $1 million shy of what Todd Gurley, who also earned an extension last summer, is pulling down yearly.
This is the same Bell who was apparently seeking a payday in line with wideout and former teammate Antonio Brown (speaking of hubris), when he was raking in $17 million per season before the Raiders agreed to sweeten the pot.
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And it was just a year ago, according to NFL Network, when Bell declined a five-year, $70 million offer from Pittsburgh that would have paid $30 million in the first two seasons while stripping away the uncertainty of the franchise tag.
Bell has forfeited a generous salary, one hard to come by at a position especially susceptible to the NFL meat grinder. He took a stand … to eventually accept a marginally better arrangement in terms of guarantees, yet inferior in terms of average salary and total compensation — and worse still when factoring inflation and time value of money.
And now Bell is teamed up with Sam Darnold, Jamison Crowder and Robby Anderson instead of Ben Roethlisberger, (maybe) Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, who could have spared him those harder yards … which is to say Bell will get the opportunity to get close and personal with those extra defenders packed into the box whenever he crashes into the line or takes a pass in the flat.
It’s probably appropriate here to cite another memorable quote.
“Be careful what you wish for — you just might get it.”
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis