Josh Rosen threw a touchdown pass on a play-action crossing post to Chad Williams on a 22-yard score. It was a great throw and a great catch. Oh, and Le’Veon Bell was vindicated.
No, this wasn’t a contest between the Cardinals and Steelers. This was a match-up with the Seattle Seahawks. But what happened on this play meant everything to the Le’Veon holdout debate. On this play, Earl Thomas snapped his lower leg and saw his season cut short in a pivotal contract year.
Thomas held out all off-season vying for an extension or a trade to a team that would pay the premier safety and 6-time Pro Bowler. Thomas has been a force since he entered the League in 2010. Over his career, he has tallied 10 forced fumbles and 28 interceptions, with 3 picks already this season.
Thomas is 29 years old. The upcoming off-season is likely his last chance to get paid serious money, and given his body of work, he would have been among the most sought-after free agents. Now, this season-ending leg injury will most likely diminish his market value. Given his bird-flipping send off in Arizona, I’m sure this is the last we have seen of Earl Thomas in a Seahawks uniform.
And that’s where Le’Veon Bell comes in. Bell continues his lengthy holdout as the League enters week 5. Bell, if he hits free agency, will be the top free agent every team will pursue. The Thomas injury is why players hold out, especially when they are approaching 30 years of age. There are no guarantees in this League and each player is trying to maximize their earning potential while he can.
Sure, it’s not good for the League to have one of its most exciting players voluntarily sit out, but as the old adage goes, it’s just business. Bell’s holdout has been the source of much debate during the early parts of the season. Commentators and fans alike are divided. Should he report? Should he hold out? Should he get paid? Should he honor his contract? There isn’t a right answer. This is the business side of the NFL that no one really enjoys, but it is understandable.
Many players sent out their well-wishes to Thomas after learning of his injury, including Bell. Bell has embraced his role in the holdout debate and promised Thomas that he will “continue to be the ‘bad guy’ for all [NFL players]”. Bell is not backing down and Thomas’s injury has only entrenched him deeper.
The shelf life of an NFL running back is significantly shorter than other positions. There aren’t too many teams out there that are eager to overpay 30-year-old running backs, and, like Earl Thomas, at 26 this is probably Bell’s last chance to earn a significant payday.
Bell will not hold out the whole season. At some point, he will report. Adam Schefter is stating that Bell will sign his tender and return to the team during the Steelers’ bye week in Week 7.
This makes sense for a few reasons. First, Bell has to report by Week 10. If he does not report before then, this season will not count as an accrued year for Bell and the Steelers will retain his rights heading into 2019. That’s the last thing Bell wants. Week 8 is the trade deadline, and it has been reported that the Steelers are actively shopping Bell. This holdout has likely ruined what was left of the relationship between Bell and the Steelers and they don’t want to see a talent like him walk out the door for nothing in return.
This makes Week 7 a perfect time to report for both Bell and the Steelers. It gives Bell two weeks to get into game-ready shape before their Week 8 match-up against the Browns, two days before the trade deadline. Should Bell report, expect the Steelers to get Bell a fair number of touches early in the game to put him on display for potential trade partners.
If Bell has a strong first half, the Steelers will likely put him on the shelf for the second half to prevent an Earl Thomas-type injury and protect his trade value. And that’s when the bidding war will commence.
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