As expected, the Pittsburgh Steelers placed the franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell on Monday and with that formality now out of the way the two sides will obviously begin working on a long-term contract extension. While contract talks are expected to take place in the coming weeks with Bell and his agent, Steelers team president Art Rooney II said Tuesday during an interview with Mike Prisuta of DVE Radio on Steelers Nation Radio that he’s not ready to prognosticate what the outcome of those talks will ultimately yield.
“Its hard for me to predict anything,” Rooney said Tuesday. “Obviously, we’re excited to have Le’Veon on our team, not only this year, but hopefully into the future and so we’ll work on that as time goes on and we don’t have any real time frame that we can put on it right now.”
While Rooney might not currently have a time frame on when a new long-term contract extension might get worked out with Bell, the league does have a deadline associated with players who have been issued the franchise tag. This year that deadline is July 15 and if the Steelers can’t sign Bell to a long-term extension by then, he’ll have to play the 2017 season under his tag amount which is currently expected to be just a little more than $12 million.
It will be interesting to see how those contract negotiations go with Bell and his agent moving forward from Monday and especially being as the running back market took an expected hit on Tuesday. In short, the Minnesota Vikings announced Tuesday that they will not exercise their 2017 option on running back Adrian Peterson. Heading into Tuesday, Peterson was the league’s highest-paid running back. With that said, even though Peterson won’t be under contract for the 2017 season come March 9, it won’t have any affect on the running back franchise tag amount.
Due to him receiving the franchise tag from the Steelers on Monday, Bell will officially become the league’s highest-paid running back on March 9. Behind him will likely be Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy, who averages $8.01 million a season, or roughly $4 million less than Bell now that he’s been tagged.
Will the Steelers ultimately be able to get Bell signed to an extension with a yearly average less than his franchise tag amount? It’s hard to say right now but Bell and his agent will certainly be shooting for that $12 million mark now that the Steelers have essentially said they’re willing to pay him that amount for the 2017 season when they tagged him on Monday.
Remember, Bell’s agent will now argue that the running back can potentially earn roughly $27 million over the course of the next two seasons in Pittsburgh should he be forced to play under the tag this year and in 2018. That assumes, however, that Bell stays healthy, productive and out of trouble with the league office.
Personally, I dont expect we’ll hear about a new contract for Bell until sometime in July and probably not until right before the July 15 deadline. In short, however, I still expect an extension will get done.