It seems like we might get to find out if Le’Veon Bell was serious about his threats of sitting out or retiring if he got another franchise tag.
The deadline to tag players is Tuesday, and Bell told ESPN the Pittsburgh Steelers informed him he’ll get the tag if a long-term deal isn’t worked out by then. Bell was on the one-year franchise tag last season as well. He’ll get about $14.5 million this season on the tag, if he decides to take it. But he wants more, which makes sense considering the short-term nature running backs’ careers.
“We’re not coming to a number we both agree on — they are too low, or I guess they feel I’m too high,” Bell told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “I’m playing for strictly my value to the team. That’s what I’m asking. I don’t think I should settle for anything less than what I’m valued at.”
Bell will make much more than any other running back for a second straight year, but he clearly wants a larger deal. It’s a case where it makes perfect sense for the Steelers to use the tag again. A bump up to $14.5 million for Bell, who is the clear centerpiece of their offense and one of the best players in the NFL, isn’t that bad. But it’s easy to understand Bell’s position too.
Bell sat out training camp last season and that seems like it will happen again, at least, if the Steelers and Bell can’t work out a long-term deal over the spring.
“I just have to decide if I’m going to play when the time comes,” Bell told ESPN.
Bell did tell ESPN it would “definitely be hard to pass up” a $14.5 million salary in 2018.
A deal perhaps could be worked out. Bell said the sides are “a lot closer” than last year, and that he feels a long-term contract can be worked out. But with Tuesday’s deadline looming, it probably won’t happen by then. When the Steelers give Bell the tag, or announce a long-term deal, it takes a great option off the free-agent market.
The story isn’t over yet, because the two sides will keep working on a longer deal. But it doesn’t sound like Bell will be too happy playing again on the one-year tag.
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