Bell could sit out well beyond the preseason.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and star running back Le'Veon Bell have still not reached an agreement on a long-term deal. The 26-year old running back has until 4:00pm ET today to either sign his $14.5 million franchise tender or begin a holdout.
It's a familiar situation, as last year Bell opted to holdout until the start of the NFL season and it appears he's on track to do the same today. However, the Steelers could be without Bell well beyond the preseason.
According to SiriusXM's Ross Tucker, ESPN's Adam Schefter had the following to say today regarding Bell's contract dispute.
"I think it's possible Le'Veon Bell sits out the first half of the year if he doesn't get a long-term deal done. The goal at that point would be to hit 2019 free agency healthy, not rack up another 400 touches."
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reports that the Steelers and Bell negotiated all weekend, but the parties aren't optimistic that a deal will be made before today's deadline. The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell back in March, which would pay him $14.544 million in 2018 if he chooses to sign.
Last year when the Steelers used the tag on Bell he sat out the entire offseason including training camp and the preseason games before he returned to the team. Despite his lack of preseason work Bell still rushed 1,291 yards (third in the NFL) on 321 carries with nine TDs, in addition to 85 receptions (2nd most on Steelers) for 655 yards and two scores.
He is reportedly looking for $30 million in guaranteed money and has said that he'd consider retiring before playing under the franchise tag for another season. At the very least, nobody should be surprised if he sits out the entire offseason again and it's entirely possible that he sits the first eight games or more.