Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Monday morning on Twitter that the Steelers plan on applying their 2018 franchise tag to Le’Veon Bell. The tag is worth $14.54 million.
The Steelers and Bell are currently negotiating a contract extension. There has been some optimism that a deal would get done before the March 6th deadline for team to use their franchise tag. However, talks haven’t progressed as quickly as some may have hoped.
The franchise tag doesn’t mean the negotiations are over. The two sides have until July 16th, which is the NFL’s deadline for players under the franchise tag to agree to any kind of contract extension.
If the two sides cannot come to an agreement on a new contract, Bell’s only option for playing football in 2018 is under the franchise tag for the Steelers.
Bell has stated publicly early in the offseason that he would contemplate retirement if he were to have to play in 2018 under the franchise tag. While some may argue how serious Bell is about his threat to retire, it’s no secret that Bell has a strong disdain for the lack of a long-term commitment from the Steelers.
Both sides want to get a deal done, but it may be difficult. Bell feels that his value is much higher than most people think because of his unique skill set as a dual-threat running back. Bell’s high percentage of the team’s snaps is another piece of ammunition in Bell’s camp.
The Steelers have a very tight salary cap situation. If the Steelers were to lock up Bell to a contract worth anywhere close to the franchise tag, they would have to shed salary elsewhere. Mike Mitchell has been a rumored player that could be traded away to shed salary to make room for Bell. Mitchell’s 2018 cap hit is $8.14 million.
We’ll continue to monitor the contract negotiations between the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell at Let’s Talk Steelers.