Alejandro Villanueva Gave Steelers A Bargain Under New Contract

A little over a month ago, I weighed in on the Alejandro Villanueva contract situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers and proposed the argument that whatever contract that he ultimately signs could come in higher, perhaps even significantly higher, than the majority of commenters had been suggesting. Over the course of the summer, there were some who were unwilling to go any higher than $4 million per season.

The contract that the third-year veteran ended up signing fell somewhere in between, as I put the range in the ballpark of $8 million, writing, “I would be very surprised if it’s more than a million and a half less per year”.

Well, color me surprised, because he ended up signing a contract that is two million less per year, inking a four-year, $24 million deal that will pay him an average of $6 million per season, though he will reportedly get $14 million over the course of the first two seasons.

One thing I will say is that it will be interesting to see how low the figure is for the fourth year of that contract, because if Villanueva continues to play as he has shown that he can, it’s pretty reasonable that he will be due for a contract extension three years from now, which would essentially make the final year on that contract irrelevant.

Still, I was off, but I believe I was off not because Villanueva couldn’t make more if he wanted to push for more. I just think that it was more important for him to get the contract completed and to create that security for himself and his family and avoiding distractions than it was for him to try to maximize his potential earnings.

That just seems to be the sort of person that he is, as should be no surprise. The Army Ranger was visibly uncomfortable with his contract situation through the spring. For most of OTAs, Villanueva declined all interview requests with the obviously transparent excuse that he had to maintain a lifting regimen.

This became something of a joke for teammates who would be an earshot of him when he told this to a reporter, but he did eventually talk to the media and was very open and upfront about the whole situation.

He realizes that money isn’t everything, and lining up next to Ramon Foster doesn’t hurt in that thinking. Foster once said something along the lines that at a point after a certain number of millions of dollars, there really isn’t that much difference.

It is notable that Foster has signed not one but two free agent contracts with the Steelers, and at neither time did he ever actually hit the open market.

It is my belief that the Steelers got a bargain for Villanueva on his current contract. He is the lowest-paid of all veteran left tackles (those on a second contract) in the league, and at $6 million per season, he is only tied for 32nd among all tackle contracts in the league.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • VaDave

    No doubt this is a Great deal for the Steelers, if it is structured as you say, it’s a good deal for Big Al too as it leaves a big opening for a restructure/ extension that pretty much would close out his NFL career.

  • will

    And what is obvious here is the gigantic difference in character between AV and Bell.

  • Steeler Nation!

    It’s a win-win. He gains a lot of financial security immediately that he wasn’t going to have playing on the cheap the next 2 years. Could he have gambled on himself, played on existing contract and signed for more in 2 years? Very possible. But now he has that security. If he does suffer an injury over the course of the next year or 2, he’s a little better off. It’s still a good chunk of change and he’s probably smart enough to figure out how to make money last, unlike so many.

  • Rocksolid20

    A true Steeler , glad to have him .

  • The Tony

    I have to completely disagree with you. This is a business. Bell who is arguably the best player in the NFL feels like he is worth more than what the Steelers offered. We know the contract was close and Bell has stated he wants to remain a Steeler. To judge Bell on character because of another player taking a team friendly contract is just lazy.

  • Dave

    The best deals are when all sides are happy. Congrats to AV, well deserved! Steelers are such a classy organization and showed us again in this case.

  • dany

    Look at it this way, in 2015 the vast majority of us wanted Beachum signed long term. It didn’t happen. He got a second year option, which they declined, by the jags that averaged 10 million per year. After being released he signed with the jets for 8 million a year. 2 contracts and they’re both bigger than Villanueva’s. I see very little difference between both of them, so I’ll stick with the one that’s paid less. Good decision not to extend him two years ago

  • dany

    Football character, sure. But in life, if a player is in the NFL business I won’t blame them for wanting the biggest piece of pie as possible. That, of course, means Bell is not long for Pittsburgh, but I won’t bash someone’s character for that. Especially someone I know zero about his personal life

  • Steel Realist PAul

    AV and Bell on opposite ends of the spectrum with how they see things.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Maybe the difference is in Bell being unrealistic then. He’s overestimating his long term value. He’s had serious injuries, missed significant amounts of time already, and he’s a RB that will be 5-6 years in by the time he will be able to negotiate for that $15M contract. If he gets that contract, he will not finish it. And he’s NOT going to be a Steeler for long. Some people just don’t get it. AV does.

  • Jacob

    I think both sides gave in here a bit. AV took less money than other veterans, but he wouldn’t even be a left tackle in the league if the Steelers hadn’t noticed him and turned him into one, and the Steelers didn’t have to give him a contract at all. They could have simply paid him what he was already getting.

    It was a fair deal for both sides in my opinion.

  • MP

    Only in part. While Bell may have exhibited questionable behavior in the past, seeking the highest payday possible is not a character flaw.

  • Lil Smitty

    I was surprised at the four year deal. I thought AV would want a three year contract, because he would have been an unrestricted free agent at the end of three years. I think AV could cash in if he wants. Even though his age indicates he is at the end of his career, he doesn’t have the years of abuse of playing in the NFL on his body. I believe that he could play for another eight years, if he chooses.

  • capehouse

    It’s nice of you to admit you were wrong, but your belief in AV just being a nice guy as the reasoning he didn’t sign for $8 mil+ as you predicted is letting yourself off the hook too easily. AV is not a franchise LT. He should not have been paid like one. End of story. That’s why you were wrong. I don’t care how well PFF said he played at the end of the season. He’s yet to prove himself on that level.

    When projecting this contract you had to factor in the Steelers getting a discount, because they always get a discount. You also had to factor in there was no way he’d get more than Gilbert who averages $6 mil, because he’s not as good a player as Gilbert. Yes, there’s inflation to factor in since Gilbert’s contract, and that’s why he now averages the same as Gilbert. I’m sure AV could’ve pushed for more money and refused to sign this deal, and the fact he wants to be with the Steelers, he’s a nice guy, and all that stuff is a factor too, but it’s not the sole reason and a very small one at that. It doesn’t matter that AV plays LT and that the position demands higher salaries. I pointed to that fact in the other article with DeCastro’s contract(in an opposite effect) as an example. DeCastro, despite being a RG, was paid like the top LGs. AV was also not a free agent, so he had very, very little leverage in this deal. THAT is/was the biggest factor in this whole thing. You can’t project a contract based on numbers players get with that distinction. On the open market I’m sure AV could’ve easily hauled in $8-10 mil per season. Fortunately for us, the Steelers owned AV for the next 2 years during this negotiation.

  • DB84

    Makes sense for him and I think staying long term with Steelers will only help his image and name so he can get more marketing deals with USAA etc. Plenty more money to be made there.
    Glad for him and his family.

  • capehouse

    Yeah that was my line of thinking too. I had him for 3 years, $18 mil, tops. Steelers definitely got a bargain getting that 4th year out of him.

  • MP

    ^^This^^

  • mokhkw

    If I’m not mistaken the current CBA ends after the 2021 Draft which means there will be a lot of players wanting contracts which end in 2020 so they can ca$h in on a (potential) uncapped year in 2021. I don’t expect AV or any other players to want to get extensions done in 2020 or even 2019, that wouldn’t make sense.

    I think it’s also a factor with Bell, why would he – or any other NFL player- want to be signed to a contract that goes into 2021 and beyond?

  • Lil Smitty

    He could be one of the few Olineman that could land national advertising deals.

  • Big White

    Alternative Headline

    “Steelers Give Opportunity to Former WR/DL Cut By Eagles, Develop Him”

  • SilverSteel

    12 mil in a small market town like Pittsburgh is the same as 15 mil in NY or LA. Ben has made that statement many times to players looking for that couple extra bucks. You have to look at taxes, cost of living, real estate property etc. oh, and being on a perennial winning team. That’s worth something too

  • The Tony

    I have to disagree again. Bell is only 25. Offering him a 5 year deal will most likely make him 31 by the time the contract is over. Pending how it is structured, the guarantee on the back end can be minimal to the life of the contract. I believe Bell has the ability to be productive through the entire duration of a five year contract. Clearly running him 95 percent of the time will have to change a bit. The Steelers are smarter than that investing that much money into a player just to run his wheels off. Even if Bell does regress a bit by the end of the contract, the way to cap continues to climb, the contract won’t be that detrimental to the team.

  • The Tony

    That is a good point. Isn’t Derek Carr saving tens of millions of dollars with the relocation to Vegas?

  • The Tony

    What exactly is that? One player taking a team friendly deal and another who is the best in the league at what he does wanting to hold out for more money. Last I checked we are a capitalistic society. Good for Bell for getting what he believes to deserve. That being said, I still thought he should have signed the Steelers offer but who am I to say what he should do

  • The Tony

    Hasn’t he already been on national television for a commercial?

  • The Tony

    Didn’t the cowboys and redskins get crushed with penalties from the NFL for over spending during the last cba holdout

  • Steeler Nation!

    He will be a Steeler for 1 more year, maybe 2. I highly doubt we will make a better offer next year, with him being a year older at that point. And it seems you discount his injuries. Even though he works hard to overcome them, they still happened. And they still take years off. He’s played 4 years and can’t stay healthy. If he’s still in the league at 31, it’ll be a shock. Some 21 year old with faster, fresher legs will take his spot for 1/20th the cost.

  • Steeler Nation!

    Who says he’s gonna get it? If he gets hurt again, what he’s gonna get is screwed. And he’ll have no one to blame but himself.

  • The Tony

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we tag him again next season and then give him an extension. Both parties have expressed interest. The third year with the transition tag would be interesting for multiple reasons. Does another team make an offer that the Steelers would be willing to match let alone even offer another fully guaranteed contract.
    I am not discounting his injuries, they are just something that a team needs to consider. We clearly didn’t believe they would be a major factor since we franchise tagged him and offered a long term extension.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    Yep. Which is collusion, but nobody seemed to care.

  • Steeler Nation!

    The 5 year offer we made was too much. After another year and a lot more mileage, a 4 year deal for no more than what we offered should be all we would do. More than likely we tag him again and let him go get cut by somebody else in a couple years.

  • The Tony

    I am also kind of partial to that idea as well. Just run him to the ground the next two seasons and cut bait. However, that effectively places a window of two years for the Steelers best chance to win a Super Bowl. Especially since we have no idea how much longer Ben is going to play. Personally I would have locked up Bell just to keep Ben around as long as possible

  • Steeler Nation!

    You’re right about the Championship window. It’s closed when Ben quits. That O line and WR core is just as big as having Bell. Remember Bell has only completed 2 playoff games in his career. We could always draft one in the 2nd-3rd round that could contribute immediately.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    He obviously wants to be a Steeler. He could have made more money long term than this (that does assume he stays healthy and continues to play well). I’m surprised he didn’t get at least 7 per. But hey, I won’t complain about extra cap space. I’m elated to have him locked up and on the team long term. It would seem that he is also very happy to be here.

  • blue

    AV is a product of the system that’s why he gets 6 mil a season. Couldn’t pay AV more than Gilbert.

  • The Tony

    That’s true. Hopefully Connor can be a major contributor by then. I’d love to see a playoff game with all the killer bees

  • AndyR34

    I agree with your first statement, but the second is flat out wrong. Gilbert signed his contract quite some time ago when the cap was lower. Paying AV the same as Gilbert makes a statement that he is NOT as important…probably due to his lower ‘pedigree'” 2nd Rnd vs. UDFA.

  • AndyR34

    I somewhat disagree with your statement “seeking the highest payday possible is not a character flaw.” In and of itself, you are correct, but…this is supposed to be a team sport and not showing up to camp implies, that ‘me’ is more important than the team in his eyes. I know that his teammates say they are not mad…that it is a business…that they understand, etc. But to me, they are just showing that they are better teammates than he is. Thus we get folks like AB and Pouncey imploring him to come and be with them. Consider the difference between his actions and AB’s when he was arguing for a better contract. He still came to camp, etc…worked hard…was present working with his teammates to make the team better. Bell is not. So, IMHO, in a team sport, putting yourself ahead of and away from the team is a character flaw. As to his personal life, we do not know much. But from what I see, it appears to me that he would rather be Snoop Dog 2.0 than a HOF RB. Maybe he gets to be both.

  • CountryClub

    He had no leverage. It’s a better deal for him than it is the Steelers (though, they’re not complaining).

  • RickM

    No disrespect, but he had one good stretch of about 13 good games. You yourself, rightly, were extremely wary of him last year. I think the Steelers were generous to extend him this early. He had a lesser body of good work than guys like Pouncey, DeCastro and Gilbert before their 2nd contracts, and unlike them AV was extended two years early. I don’t think AV settled for less than he was entitled to at all. It was a fair deal for both sides and I’m happy for AV and the team. But I appreciate you disagree.

  • Douglas Andrews

    14 million over the next 2 years seems pretty fair and like Matthew said if he performs at a much higher level than his contract he’ll command a raise that i’m sure the Steelers will be more than willing to work out with him.

  • blue

    Andy my man, gotta chance to meet you years ago at a game. I agree with your logic.

  • stan

    Your analysis did and does fail to take into account that the Steelers have another year of control of AV before he hits free agency. That gives them a lot more leverage than they have over Tuitt, for instance. Its the same situation as with Bell. Going one full season healthy and productive is a much easier bet than going two. AV also hasn’t had his first “difference maker” payday yet either. The Steelers held all the cards on this one. Most people on here agree with me that the Steelers might actually have been a little generous (and they also agree that AV is just the kind of guy who deserves some generosity).

  • Darth Blount 47

    I’ll continue with my assertion that the Steelers did NOT hold “all” the cards on this. And my justification, is the fact that a new deal was even struck.
    Because as many who held that belief would say over and over… “What’s the point of giving AV a lot more money this year if they don’t have to?”

    Want me to tell you why? Because AV DID have some leverage. And that leverage was an agent who let it be known that there was a real chance that AV would be willing to play hard ball. And the Steelers were not crazy enough, unlike many of the fans on here, to anoint Jerald Hawkins the new Steelers Left Tackle in a championship inspired season.

    We can debate the potentiality of whether or not Villy would have ever actually held out or not. Thank God we don’t have to. But when it comes to contracts, and giving people money years before they are either UFA’s or on the last year of their deals, some of you correctly wanted to point out, the Steelers essentially never do that. And you used that logical conclusion, to conclude yourselves, that AV would very likely have to sign his tender and play under his current amount. Regardless, whether a new deal could be struck that was equitable for both sides, that was never the point. This wasn’t going to be a “kindness of the heart” sort of moment with a player, even one like Villaneuva.

    But it turns out, it was EXACTLY that. AV knew it was in his best interest to bank more money now, gain some security, get it all behind him, and get back to playing football. And the Steelers knew that the last thing they needed was a disgruntled LT protecting Ben’s blind side, unfocused by the chaos of contract minutiae, possibly through no fault of his own mind, as he has an agent and other people and the pundits, sticking microphones in his face, or constantly sending him text-messages, asking him what he was thinking, about his lack of a new deal.

    The Steelers also decided to step out of their normal boxes, and reward a guy who has developed and who plays a critical role. By all accounts, a really great person, let alone a pretty good player, who the fans seem to love, and who his teammates and coaches probably consider a joy to be with. Yes, this was a good deal for both sides. I thought AV could get a little more. No doubt. But both sides should be commended in this arrangement. But make no mistake… to say that there was ZERO leverage on one side, and ALL the leverage on the other, was just incorrect. Even if the scales were indeed tipped very heavily to one over the other.

  • Rene Gonzalez

    You’re right he is.

  • LucasY59

    If Gilbert is so good why doesnt he play LT? (where he could make more $)

    even 8 million would not make him a franchise LT (those cost 12+mil …so he is getting paid half that) it would pay him as an average Starting LT (which he is) and even now at 6mil he is near the bottom of what a starting LT will make (the only ones making less are on rookie contracts)

  • Bill

    Don’t know what forms the basis of these comments. first of all most of the comments were in favor of AV being signed to a fair contract.This season he had little leverage because of his few years in the league and the exclusive rights tender. The Steelers did what they felt was the right thing to do for all and the AV camp apparently agreed.

  • ryan72384

    This is why AV has quickly become one of my favorite team first guys and the comment from Ramon Foster is exactly what makes guys like him so valuable to a team. He’s a consistent linemen that isn’t trying to make every last penny he possibly can because like he said there’s really no difference in a couple million dollars. Once you’ve made multi millions your rich and can buy anything you want. Why do you need another 10? Ramon Foster is a guy who genuinely wants to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and I believe AV is of the same mold.

  • Darth Blount 47

    The basis comes from multiple comments that said that Villaneuva won’t get a new deal, because it’s not how the Steelers operate, and because he’s under contract for a very cheap amount, which is a good thing for the Steelers right now. If you maybe didn’t see those comments, go back and look through the articles, because they were in fact, there. And not said by one or two or three people. But many.

    And you see, you added that little qualifier called “little” in your comment about AV’s leverage. Where once again, I went back and forth with numerous people about how he had NO leverage whatsoever. When you add that “little,” it allows itself to be expanded to fit an argument when it arises. Which is smart.

    But it doesn’t change the fact that he DID have leverage. Though we can debate the amount or the definition that you consider “little.”

    And I agree, that the Steelers: “did what they felt was the right thing to do for all.” But the questions must be asked… Why did they feel that way? And is it outside of the norm with how they usually would treat a player who is under their control for two more seasons?

  • Terrible Towlie

    worth every penny….finally a deal that is fair for both sides especially a team trying to keep it together to win a SB

  • Terrible Towlie

    its a comparison of the two,,,one it seems cares more about keeping the team together and winning………the other only himself

  • Terrible Towlie

    capitalist society, but he’s in an exclusive section of society that has to work with a salary cap….so not totally capitalist

  • Terrible Towlie

    he’s stilll making more $ than any of us could spend in this life(being sensible)

  • RickM

    Three years totally plays into his wheelhouse, but not the Steelers. It basically means they would be giving him $13 Million for one extra season (they already have him for two seasons at around $5M). It had to be 4 years to make it fair to the Steelers.

  • SteelersGeek4Lyfe

    YES!

  • MP

    Fair enough. All good points. I only take issue with fans giving players no space to bargain. The owners often have the upper hand, and I don’t think it’s fair when they use fan frustration in addition.

  • Matthew Marczi

    That’s an old headline, not an alternative one.

  • Matthew Marczi

    All the people I’ve talked to and read who regularly deal with the salary cap seem to be in firm agreement that the Steelers got a bargain.

  • Matthew Marczi

    First of all, if they held all the cards Villanueva would be playing for the minimum this year. Secondly, do you actually think I didn’t know and couldn’t figure out how to take into account the fact that Villanueva was only an exclusive rights free agent? Of course I knew and understood that. Just because he signed for $6 million doesn’t mean he couldn’t have gotten more from the Steelers if he really wanted it.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Tony –

    I agree with you on this one. A lot of fans are taking the Bell negotiations very personal. Last year when he was producing record numbers for $2 million, he had great character. This year, suddenly he’s the devil’s spawn, just because he won’t accept the Steeler’s offer. That’s not fair, in my opinion.

    Le’Veon Bell is a nice guy. He loves the city and the fans. He is a very hard worker. He has been one of the most productive RB’s in NFL history (over his first 4 years). He just watched Antonio Brown sign a 4 year / $68 million extension. And he feels he is worth a similar (but slightly) lower value. That doesn’t make him a bad person.

  • RickM

    Frankly I go by what actually happens, not by what some people who weren’t involved in the negotiations think. He could have easily turned down the offer and played one more year and seen what the offer would be. He didn’t. There was no gun to his head to accept the deal. and he did. That tells me that both the team and AV viewed it as fair. For others not involved in the process to feel otherwise, strikes me as irrelevant and presumptious.

    I would say the same thing if I felt he was worth $5M-$6M and he got $8M. I wouldn’t say after the fact that I (or anyone else) knew more than the team and AV about his value. I would just say I under-valued his worth because the team and AV came to a different conclusion, and their opinions were the only ones that mattered.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Nobody said it wasn’t fair. I didn’t say it wasn’t fair. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have gotten more if he wanted to.

  • will

    Character probably is not the best word here. Maybe “outlook on football life” should be the phrase to replace “character “.
    So how about this: And what is obvious here is the gigantic difference in outlook on football life between AV and Bell.

    Does character influence one’s outlook??

  • Steeler Nation!

    I don’t think most fans are taking it personal. I’m not, but I am disappointed that he turned down more than what we should’ve offered in the first place. I think he made a poor decision, and I don’t think he will come out better in the long run. The odds of him having 2 great years on the tag, staying 100% healthy thru the process, and teams overlooking the mileage of a 6 year RB are not great. If he gets that big 4-5 year deal, there will be no more guaranteed and he won’t get it all.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    And that is a fair argument as well. Like you, I also believe Bell is overestimating his ability to stay physically healthy and pot-free for two full years. But we shall see. It is my opinion that other teams have told Bell’s agent (through back channels) that they will be willing to pay him more money than the Steelers offered once he hits the open market. And he has decided to gamble on himself, and wait to sign until he gets that amount.

    It’s actually somewhat similar to the Mike Wallace situation in that i’m sure other teams (Miami, Minnesota, etc) told him they would give him more that the $10 million Pittsburgh was offering. A lot of fans ranted that he “wasn’t worth that much” or that “nobody would offer him more.” That wasn’t true. He did get offered more. And I think Bell will get offered more as well.

    It is possible, this will be Bell’s last contract. He is trying to provide for his family for the rest of their lives. He is trying to get his full value. And I don’t think that makes him a bad person. Hines Ward held out of training camp for the same reason, and he had exemplary football character (imo). It comes down to a choice. Either you try to get every dollar you can for your family. Or you try to help your team win by giving them better cap flexibility.

    I do agree with one point you made as far as the Alejandro Villanueva comparison/contrasting. A.V. said he didn’t want to “break the bank.” I do think there is something admirable about not being overly greedy. It’s kind of like going to a really good buffet. Some people eat until they physically cannot swallow another bite. Other stop eating at a moderate amount.

  • dany

    Sounds a lot better really. Yes, character influences outlook, and the other way around. If one’s outlook in life is about achieving greatness, perhaps, I dunno, achieving greatness of winning a world title with your friends, then your character will be all about winning and that will be reflected in your actions- Hence people, fans in this case, will be ok with you. If it’s not, then here come the insults when you’re not the model football soldier

    Bell’s football outlook may not be as strong as other players, but that doesn’t mean his character is flawed- At least not because of that. I reiterate, 99% of us know zero about him. If his outlook is something else let him have it, doesn’t mean we or the steelers or any NFL team has to agree with him and give him the money he wants. And this is from someone that thinks Bell made a mistake not taking that contract and doesn’t want the steelers to make a higher offer next year or the one after

  • Bill

    The difference between little and none is really semantics. What they
    both meant in this case was that AV had no case for any sort of large
    contract. If you don’t believe that just ask yourself under the rules of
    the CBA, what were his options prior to the new contract? Play for next
    to nothing or don’t play. That’s very little leverage; or you can call
    it none. The big question seemed to be whether he would hold out or not.
    He did however have some leverage outside of the rules: he seems to be
    on his way to being quite a good left tackle: he seems to be the
    prototypical, selfless Steeler; and if indeed he continues to develop,
    signing him later could get quite expensive. I think most people thought
    he would be signed to a new contract and he was. I would not be
    surprised if that contract gets revisited in several years. To me a
    great signing, now on to Tuitt!

  • Rob Olzer

    Smart man took his deal. And signed for a hometown discount.