Ike Taylor says 'strong possibility' Le'Veon Bell holds out after no long-term contract
Bell will still be the NFL's highest paid running back -- by $4 million -- next season
Le'Veon Bell and the Steelers couldn't agree on a long-term contract Monday which means the league's most dynamic running back will play the 2017 season on the $12.1 million franchise tag. There are worse fates, though Bell says he rejected the Steelers' offer -- which included $42 million over the first three years and an average annual salary north of $12 million, according to Pro Football Talk -- because he didn't want to contribute to the devaluation of the running back position.
Either way, Ike Taylor, an NFL Network analyst and Bell's former teammate in Pittsburgh, thinks that Bell could skip training camp in protest.
"It's a strong possibility," Taylor said, via NFL.com. "He might hold out."
Earning $4 million more than the next highest-paid back might seem like an odd reason to be a no-show but, as Taylor explains, Bell isn't just a running back.
"Le'Veon has the power right now with that $12 million," Taylor said. "For only one position. And when you add more value to that running back, just give me $3 [million] more. Put it at $15 [million]. Give me three [million] more."
Not surprisingly, Bell expressed similar sentiments Monday afternoon.
"I feel I should be valued as a player, not so much my position," Bell told ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler. "Hopefully down the line I can get valued at, not as much a guy who gets the ball 30 carries and that's it. ...
"I make plays in the passing game, blocking, doing everything," Bell continued. "I'm arguably the top running back in the NFL and the No. 2 receiver on the Steelers, even though I play running back. Their career receiving total vs. mine, they don't have more yards than me."
He's not wrong; Bell rushed for 1,268 yards last season (4.9 yards per carry), scored seven touchdowns and had 75 receptions for 616 yards and two more scores. He was even better on the ground during the postseason (65 carries, 357 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, two TDs).
But even if Bell does hold out, the Steelers don't seem concerned, as one staffer put it to TheMMQB.com's Albert Breer: "Even if he doesn't show up for camp, he'll be ready to play, no matter what. I'm not worried about that. He's always comes in in phenomenal shape."
And when Bell does show up, he'll become yet another chess piece that gives Pittsburgh one of the league's most explosive offenses -- to go along with Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, rookie second-rounder JuJu Smith-Schuster and that offensive line.
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