As expected, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell isn’t leaving Pittsburgh anytime soon.
On Monday, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported that Bell became the third player to be franchise tagged ahead of Wednesday’s deadline. Shortly after, the team confirmed the move. According to La Canfora, the Steelers used the exclusive tag on Bell, which means there isn’t even a slim chance that Bell will be playing for a different team next season.
Like the Cardinals’ decision to tag Chandler Jones and the Panthers’ move to tag Kawann Short, the Steelers’ tagging of Bell was expected. In fact, their intention to franchise tag him was reported as far back as mid December. They also sound like they want to keep him around after 2017. That also makes sense, given Bell might be the game’s best running back.
Both sides have until July 15 to reach a long-term contract agreement. If they’re unable to do so and if Bell signs his tender, he’s projected to earn somewhere around $12 million for the 2017 season. Earlier this month, CBS Sports’ Joel Corry, a former agent, took a look at why playing under the tag might not be the worst outcome for Bell. He also explained what type of deal Bell can expect:
It’s hard to envision a scenario where Bell gets an Adrian Peterson-type mega-contract. However, the Steelers should be willing to make a four- or five-year commitment to Bell in the $11 million-per-year range, which is currently the bottom of second-tier wide receiver money, since he is such a dynamic play-maker.
In 12 regular-season games last year, Bell accumulated 1,884 yards from scrimmage. In the Steelers’ first two playoff games, he rushed for 337 yards. He ended up missing most of the Steelers’ season-ending loss to the Patriots in the AFC title game with a groin injury, but he reportedly isn’t expected to need surgery. He’s still only 25 and the Steelers have enough pieces in place to be a contender for the next few seasons.
The bottom line is that the Steelers can’t afford to lose a player of Bell’s caliber -- not now and, well, not ever.