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Jets payout doesn’t measure up after RB’s Steelers ploy


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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.
USA TODAY

“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.

Otherwise?

It certainly appears the former Steelers star wasted a prime season of his precious earning power while dragging his reputation and Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl hopes into a blast furnace.

ESPN reported early Wednesday that Bell had 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 league’s free agent market, a place where box safeties are pulling down deals averaging $14 million?

► The $35 million in guarantees Bell secured establishes a new record at the running back position.

► Moving to a media market like the Big Apple might 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 one final 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 focused 27-year-old 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 wide receiver and former teammate Antonio Brown (speaking of hubris), who was raking in $17 million per season before the Raiders agreed to sweeten the pot.

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BROWN: WR won by forcing trade from Steelers

And it was just a year ago, according to NFL Network, that 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.

Fast forward to 2019, and Bell has forfeited a generous salary, hard to come by at a position especially susceptible to the NFL meat grinder. He took a stand … to eventually accept a marginally better pact in terms of guarantees yet inferior in terms of yearly 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 and JuJu Smith-Schuster … 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.

This is probably a good time to cite another memorable quote.

“Be careful what you wish for — you just might get it.”

***

Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

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