This coming Tuesday NFL teams cant begin using the franchise or transition tag on soon-to-be unrestricted free agents and thus it will be interesting to see if the Pittsburgh Steelers ultimately use the former of the two on running back Le’Veon Bell before the March 6 deadline. On Thursday, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told a large group of local media members that tagging Bell again is certainly option.
“Even if you tag a player, you can still sign him,” Colbert said Thursday, according to Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network. “It takes two sides to get it done.”
Colbert then reportedly added that the Steelers negotiations last year with Bell aren’t necessarily a road map for this year’s talks.
“You start over really. Our situation is different this year,” Colbert reportedly said.
Ahead of the Steelers playoff loss several weeks ago to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bell stated that he would consider sitting out the 2018 season, or even retiring, if given the franchise tag a second year in a row. Ahead of the Pro Bowl, however, Bell did somewhat soften his stance on that matter and indicated that talks with the Steelers at the time were ahead of last year’s pace and that he was hopeful the two sides could reach an agreement before Feb. 20, the beginning of the tag period.
Bell would later say ahead of the Super Bowl a few weeks ago that guaranteed money would play a huge role in his long-term contract discussions.
Last year, the Steelers reportedly offered Bell a long-term contract that would have paid him $30 million in the first two years of the deal and $42 million through the first three. He obviously decided against agreeing to that reported deal and ultimately played the 2017 season under the franchise tag that paid him just a little more than $12 million. He only did so, however, after not participating in any of the team’s OTA or training camp practices and thus did not play during the preseason. Colbert said Thursday he hopes not to have a repeat of that.
Even if Colbert and the Steelers ultimately have to use the franchise tag on Bell in the coming weeks, Colbert said Thursday he’s optimistic a long-term contract can eventually be worked out with the All-Pro running back, according to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and this echoes the comments that Steelers team president Art Rooney II made recently when he talked about Bell and his current contract situation.
Should Bell ultimately get the franchise tag from the Steelers in the coming weeks, it will come with a $14.54 million price tag for 2018. From there the Steelers will have until the middle of July to get Bell signed to a long-term contract.
Colbert said Thursday that Bell was told recently that; “We have a strong desire to keep you with the Pittsburgh Steelers your entire career,” according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.