The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed running back Doug Martin to a five-year, $35.75 million deal on Wednesday and that appears to have made Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell very happy.
Because Bell is entering the final year of his rookie contract, there’s been speculation for some time now that he might ultimately receive a long-term extension from the Steelers at some point during the offseason.
Due to veteran running backs Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster retiring and being cut respectively this offseason, the running back market quickly had a void in it. However, Martin’s new deal will help absorb some of that. Additionally, now that it is being reported that the Houston Texans will sign running back Lamar Miller to a four-year, $26 million contract, the extreme bottom floor for a new deal for Bell has easily been established
Currently, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson leads the way at his position as he averages $14 million a season. While Bell might be hard-pressed to get that kind of money per season from the Steelers with him coming off of a serious knee injury, he and his agent might try to command $12 million a year or more.
Should the Steelers not be able to ultimately work out a long-term extension with Bell later on in the offseason, he would be able to test free agency next offseason should Pittsburgh decide not to place the franchise tag on him prior to the start of the 2017 league year. This year, the franchise tag amount for running backs was $11.789 million and according to former agent Joel Corry, that number is expected to rise some next year.
Corry told me that even though Foster and Lynch are no longer under contract, it won’t matter because what would have been the 2016 franchise tag amounts under the old formula (2015 cap numbers) enter the five-year equation for 2017 calculations. He went on to tell me that an estimated $168 million salary cap in 2017 would likely result in a $12.377 million franchise tag amount for running backs.