When Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell spoke to the media after the team’s first OTA practice of the offseason, he made it clear that contract extension negotiations with the organization had yet to get underway. It’s now been three and a half weeks since Bell made those comments and as of Thursday afternoon the former second-round draft pick said nothing has changed when it comes to his contract. In fact, Bell would only say that he and the Steelers are not discussing a new deal “right now” and that such negotiations aren’t likely to begin until his surgically repaired knee is fully healed.
“I just want to make sure my knee’s good,” Bell said Thursday, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “Make sure everything’s straight before all that comes about.”
Bell’s recent comments certainly aren’t a big surprise as the team wasn’t likely to address his contract until he finishes rehabbing and can begin practicing fully in pads during training camp or the later stages of the preseason. Besides, the team will likely need to clear some additionally salary cap space in the meantime and can do just that by signing guard David DeCastro to a long-term contract extension over the course of the next few weeks and months. They could also clear additionally salary cap space by extending linebacker Lawrence Timmons in the near future if the veteran is willing to sign a deal that includes no, or a very minimal, signing bonus. While a new deal for DeCastro is virtually guaranteed to happen, that isn’t the case when it comes to Timmons.
In addition to revealing Thursday that he’s dropped some weight during the offseason, Bell, who has rushed for 2,777 yards and 19 touchdowns so far during his career, made it a point to also reemphasize that he tore the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee last season when he was tackled by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the first half of the Week 8 game between the two teams. After undergoing surgery to repair the damage, Bell started his rehab and as usual, was back training again at Bommarito Performance Systems in Miami, Florida.
While a contract extension for Bell isn’t guaranteed to happen between now and the start of the 2016 regular season, it does sound like the two sides will at least talk about it once Bell is fully healed. Such an extension, if it ultimately comes to fruition, could result in Bell being the league’s second-highest paid running back behind only Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. Should, however, an extension fail to take place, Bell will then be scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next March and at that point the Steelers would likely have to use either a franchise or transition tag on the running back in order to prevent him from testing the market.
Speaking of Peterson, Bell intends to reach out to him in the near future for some extra advice when it comes to putting the finishing touches on his knee rehab being as the Vikings running back has already suffered and returned from the same injury.
“Once my knee gets good I want to see what Adrian Peterson, all the extra things he did,” Bell said, according to Jacob Klinger of Penn Live. “Did he wear a brace and how’d he feel when he was coming into the season and just pick his brain a little bit.”
Bell is currently scheduled to earn $966,900 in 2016, the final year of his rookie contract.