The contract negotiation saga of Le'Veon Bell has been a long and winding one, but Monday night, Bell provided what might be considered a glimmer of hope. Appearing on NFL Network's The Top 100 Players of 2018 Reactions show, Bell let on that negotiations between himself and the Steelers on a long-term deal are in better shape than they were a year ago.
"Obviously, the people in the organization try to do what's best for them and I'm trying to do what's best for me," Bell said. "We're working on it. We're a lot closer than we were last year at this time. That's what I'm happy about. None of that matters if we don't get it done. Hopefully we'll try to get something done. That's what I'm looking forward to. I got confidence we'll get it done. I want to do it."
For a while now, Bell has been angling for a long-term contract that keeps him in Pittsburgh but the two sides have been unable to come to an equitable agreement. The Steelers ended up using the franchise tag on Bell last offseason and, after holding out for much of that offseason in an attempt to create leverage, Bell played out the season on the tag. He was once again one of the NFL's most productive running backs, rushing an NFL-high 321 times for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns, while adding 86 catches for 655 yards and two additional scores.
The Steelers and Bell were unable to come to a long-term agreement prior to the start of free agency, so the team used the franchise tag on the star back for the second-consecutive season. He's set to make approximately $14.5 million during the 2018 campaign but has been asking for more than that on a long-term contract. The exact figures Bell reportedly wants have varied based on the source of the report, but he has mentioned wanting to be paid like the league's top running back and a No. 2 receiver, given his status as the No. 2 pass-catcher for the Steelers behind Antonio Brown.
That seems at least somewhat unrealistic, but something in the mid-to-high teens in terms of millions of dollars per year might get this thing done eventually. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero recently reported that Bell's target number in negotiations is $17 million annually, so it looks like things might be heading in that direction.
As for Bell, he's not going to take less than he feels he's worth and he feels prepared to play on the tag again, if that's what it comes to. "I don't want to have the replications of what happened last year. But if that came down to that, obviously I got to do what I got to do," he said. "Take my stand and protect myself. I don't want to have to do that. I want to go to camp and play for the Steelers long term."