Bell likely to leave Pittsburgh as a free agent after this season.
The NFL's deadline for teams to sign franchise tagged players to long term deals has come and gone, and for the second straight season the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to reach an agreement with star running back Le'Veon Bell.
As a result, Bell's agent, Adisa Bakari, says this upcoming season will likely be his last in a Steelers uniform. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Bakari added, "it became clear the Steelers wanted to pay the position, not the player."
"His intention was to retire as a Steeler," Bakari told Schefter. "But now that there's no deal, the practical reality is, this now likely will be Le'Veon's last season as a Steeler."
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.
This time around, Schefter believes it's possible the 26-year old Pro Bowler sits out the first half of the season. According to SiriusXM's Ross Tucker, Schefter said the following in regards to 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."
That said, Bell released the following statement just moments after the deadline, saying that 2018 will be his best season yet.
ESPN reports the Steelers "made two sizable contract offers -- one last summer and one this winter -- beginning at around $13.3 million per year on average," but Bell turned both of them down, saying he wouldn't take a contract worth less than $14.5 million annually. The one-year tender for the 2018 season will pay him $14.544 million.