Le'Veon Bell has still not reported, with only four days until the season opener. His agent, Adisa Bakari, appeared on SiriusXM radio with Brady Quinn and Bruce Murray, and had some very interesting things to say. Well, interesting if you, as he suggests, read between the lines.
Bakari said he wouldn’t discuss the plan publicly, but asked Quinn how what his plan with Bell would be if he were in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ shoes. When Quinn responded that he would “use him as much as possible to make sure we have the best possible chance of winning the Super Bowl,” Bakari then responded to what Bell’s plan is with “you can read between those lines.”
When Quinn pressed him on whether this was for the season, or until Week 10, Bakari responded with “when we find out. I think Mike Tomlin said it best yesterday. He’ll get there when he’s there and we’ll address these issues when he arrives.”
Le’Veon Bell cannot at this point get a new contract from Pittsburgh. He either shows up and plays under the franchise tag tender or he does not. So his absence this year is not about getting more money this year, or getting a contract from Pittsburgh long-term. Reading between the lines, as his agent suggests, his continued absence is about keeping his total touches in 2018 down, because they know Pittsburgh will use him as much as possible, before they sign with a new team.
Bell is willing to forego $800,000 a week to, in his mind, keep his market value high with reduced touches before signing with another team. Basically, he doesn’t want what happened with DeMarco Murray back in 2014, where the Dallas Cowboys used him for 392 rush attempts and 449 total touches before letting him leave in free agency to Philadelphia. That 392 rush attempts is 65 more than any other running back in the last five years, and second in total touches during that span? Le’Veon Bell last year with 406, followed by Bell in 2014 (and David Johnson in 2016) with 373.
And if that is the crux of the issue, then absent Pittsburgh reaching some agreement on not exceeding a certain number of touches per game, then it sure sounds like Bell won’t be reporting any time soon. That Week 10 deadline is when he’ll have to show up to accrue a year of service time, and we’ve seen players not report until necessary in the past, such as Vincent Jackson and Logan Mankins.
So in real NFL action, I would expect Pittsburgh to be without Bell for half a season unless they can agree on the cause for his concern in regard to being overused, and for fantasy football owners out there, it sure seems like Le’Veon Bell will be out for awhile.