For the second year in a row, the Pittsburgh Steelers have announced that they are placing the franchise tag on star running back Le'Veon Bell, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapaport. Last week it was reported that Pittsburgh was likely to tag Bell but today it became official.
The one-year franchise tender will reportedly pay the 26-year old running back $14.544 million in 2018. The question now is when/if Bell will sign.
According to NFL.com, Bell and the Steelers were optimistic that a long-term deal would be agreed upon before today's franchise tag deadline, but that obviously wasn't the case. The two sides have until July 16 to work on a long-term deal. If nothing is struck by that deadline, Bell would have to play under the one-year deal or not play at all.
It's unclear exactly how much Bell is asking for but according to former teammate Ike Taylor, Bell wants to be paid as a No. 1 running back and a No. 2 wide receiver.
"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, per ESPN. "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."
"I'm the one to bet on myself. And I'll do it again," Bell said. "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."
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 he 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.
Bell, who is reportedly looking for $30 million in guaranteed money, 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.