The Pittsburgh Steelers now have just a little more than a month remaining until they need to have running back Le’Veon Bell signed to a contract extension if they dont want him playing on the franchise tag in 2018. While many analysts still firmly believe that the two sides won’t reach an agreement on an extension before the league’s July 16 deadline, it appears as though Bell’s target average per season number has maybe come down some.
According to a Tuesday morning report by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, Bell recently said he won’t accept an extension worth less than $14.5 million per year, which is roughly the amount of his franchise tag number for 2018.
$14.5 million per season, or is it $17 million per season? At last report just a few months ago it was said that Bell was wanting $17 million per season, which is what Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown currently averages as part of the long-term contract he signed a year ago this past February. Either that report was incorrect, or Bell has now lowered his demands. In defense of ESPN, however, Fowler had a report just over a month ago that used $14.5 million per season as Bell’s contractual floor.
In late March, Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network reported that guaranteed money isn’t the issue with Bell and him getting a long-term contract done with the Steelers and that it’s only his average yearly value that he’s concerned about.
“And it’s not even about the guaranteed money. I was just told earlier today, it’s not about the guarantee, it’s about the per year average,” Kinkhabwala reported at the time. “He wants to be paid like Antonio Brown.”
If Bell’s contract floor is indeed $14.5 million per season and he is indeed not caught up in guaranteed money, one would think there’s still a chance the two sides can come to some sort of an agreement prior to the July 16 deadline.
A little less than a year ago, Bell reportedly turned down a multi-year contract offer from the Steelers that would have averaged over $12 million a season and would have paid the running back $30 million over the course of the first two seasons and $42 million through 2019.
This past February the Steelers used the franchise tag on Bell for a second consecutive year. This year, however, the amount of that tag was $14.544 million. Most are predicting that Bell and the Steelers will fail once again this year at striking a deal before the July deadline and if that’s ultimately the case, the running back will likely bypass all of training camp and the preseason for a second consecutive year and thus not show up and sign his tag until right before the 2018 regular season starts.