Even though the offseason has just officially gotten underway, an important date on the 2017 NFL calendar will take place in a few more days when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers and running back Le’Veon Bell.
Wednesday is February 15th and that’s the first official day that NFL teams can start designating their franchise or transition players for the 2017 season. The Steelers will then have until 4:00 p.m., New York time on March 1st to designate Bell as their franchise player for 2017 and that’s the expected course of action the team will take with starting running back.
While the franchise tag amounts for 2017 have yet to be released, the general consensus is that Bell’s forthcoming tag will be roughly $12.4 million.
So, what happens after Bell receives the franchise tag from the Steelers? For starters, one would think that he’ll sign it immediately and that point the two sides will likely begin to seriously discuss a new long-term contract extension.
There is, however, another date that will come into play should Bell ultimately wind up receiving the franchise tag from the Steelers in the coming weeks.
July 15 at 4:00 p.m., New York time is the deadline for any NFL team that designated a franchise player to sign such player to a multiyear contract or extension. After that date, the player may only sign a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2017 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular season game.
That deadline date above is pretty straight forward when it comes to Bell and the Steelers and essentially comes two weeks before the start of training camp in Latrobe. One would think that Bell will be signed to a new contract by then judging by the comments made a few weeks ago by Steelers team president Art Rooney II.
While I have no doubts that Bell will ultimately be signed to a new long-term contract extension prior to July 15, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com wasn’t ready to concede that will indeed happen during one of his recent interviews.
“They definitely want to keep him [Bell] for this year even if that means franchising him at about $12.4 million dollars,” said Graziano. “They’d like to sign him long-term, but it’s a complicated negotiation. As we saw there, a unique talent, somebody that they lean very hard on, maybe the best at what he does in the entire league. But this is also a player who has missed some games due to injury, who has been suspended for drugs to start two or three games of each of the last two seasons.
“So, this is a player that the Steelers, long-term, aren’t 100 percent sure that they want to commit top of the market money to and that means they may have to franchise him in the meantime while they get a deal done, or maybe, for the entire year. And then see how he gets through this year and talk about a long-term deal a year from now.”