As expected, the Pittsburgh Steelers have placed the exclusive franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
While the exact amount of the 2017 franchise tag for running backs won’t be known until the league establishes their yearly salary cap number, it’s expected to come in north of $12 million.
The Steelers had until March 1 to place the tag on Bell as that is this year’s deadline. The team now has until July 15 to work out a long-term contract extension with their former second round draft pick out of Michigan State. If unable to do so, Bell will have to play the entire 2017 season under his franchise tag amount.
Several weeks ago, Steelers team president Art Rooney II talked about the prospects of Bell receiving the franchise tag from the team and eventually a long-term contract extension during his annual end-of-the-season talk with the local media.
“It’s certainly something that’s available to us and we’re still in the early stages of kind of mapping out our offseason plans here and evaluating how to allocate resources, things like that,” Rooney said of the franchise tag. “But it’s certainly a tool that we have available to us and I think bottom line is we feel Le’Veon’s future is bright and hopefully he’s going to be with us for several years to come.”
Bell, who has missed five games over the course of the last two seasons due to multiple violations of the league’s substance abuse policy, rushed for 1,268 yards and 7 touchdowns on 261 total regular season carries in 2016. He also caught 75 passes for 616 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season.
After the 2016 season ended, Bell announced that he might have to undergo groin surgery during the offseason as he was waiting to get a third opinion after returning from Houston following several media appearances during the week leading up to Super Bowl LI. Even if the running back does need surgery, he said he would expect to be back training again in April. As of last week, Bell is not expected to need surgery.
The Steelers last tagged an unrestricted free agent of theirs in 2014 when former outside linebacker Jason Worilds was issued the transition variety. The Steelers failed to work out a long-term contract extension with Worilds after tagging him and the former second round draft pick out of Virginia Tech ultimately decided to retire from the NFL in March of 2015.