As expected, the Pittsburgh Steelers have finally officially placed the exclusive franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell.
Bell, who was also franchise tagged last year, is now scheduled to earn $14.544 million in 2018 as a result of the Tuesday transaction. Last year the Steelers former second-round draft pick out of Michigan State earned $12.12 million after receiving the tag and ultimately failing to work out a long-term contract extension with the team.
The Steelers now have until the middle of July to sign Bell to a long-term contract extension now that they have tagged him again. If unable to do so by that league deadline, Bell will once again have to wear the tag all season just as he did in 2017.
While Bell has threatened to either retire or sit out the entire 2018 season if he fails to get a new long-term deal from the Steelers prior to the July deadline, that’s very unlikely to ultimately happen. He may, however, decide to skip the team’s OTA sessions and ultimately training camp once again if no new deal is struck with the Steelers prior to the deadline. That’s exactly what the All-Pro running back did last season.
During a recent interview with ESPN.com, Bell, who had optimism several weeks ago that he would sign a new long-term contract with the Steelers prior to March 6, was resigned to the fact that he would receive the franchise tag from the team prior to Tuesday’s deadline.
“We’re not coming to a number we both agree on — they are too low, or I guess they feel I’m too high,” Bell said, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “I’m playing for strictly my value to the team. That’s what I’m asking. I don’t think I should settle for anything less than what I’m valued at.”
In that same interview, Bell wouldn’t reveal what he was looking for from the Steelers this year as far as contract numbers go but did confirm he turned down an offer last July that would have paid him $42 million in the first three years of the deal with an annual average of $13.3 million over the life of the contract. Bell admitted he almost signed that contract offer at his mother’s urging to do so.
“I’m the one to bet on myself. And I’ll do it again,” Bell said, per Fowler. “I understand how the Steelers do contracts. Last year, I was pounding the table on guaranteed money. That’s not the case. If I’m not getting guaranteed money, I want a lot more up front. … It’s year-to-year with the Steelers. Essentially if I sign a four- or five-year deal, I’m playing four or five franchise tags.”
Now that Bell has been issued the franchise tag, the Steelers are essentially telling him he’s worth $14.54 million per season right now. Is Bell wanting a new contract that averages $17 million per season, which is exactly what Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown received from the team a little more than a year ago? It’s possible as the running back has said he wants to be paid like a number one running back and a number two wide receiver, combined. If that’s the case, he isn’t likely to get that kind of deal.
Bell has also previously hinted that he wants more guaranteed money than previously offered.