“Yeah. You know regardless that’s what I want to do,” Bell said. “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. 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.”
Last year, the Steelers and Bell weren’t able to get a deal done before the deadline to negotiate with franchise players and recent reports have indicated that he’ll likely play out the 2018 season under the tag.
However, Bell says that they’re “a lot closer than we were last year at this time.”
“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.“
Bell wound up skipping the team’s mandatory minicamp a few weeks ago and the expectation is that he’ll show up right before the start of the regular season, assuming they can’t get a long-term deal done.
Tom Pelissero reported that Bell has been seeking $17 million per year in a long-term deal, which explains why the two sides haven’t come to an agreement.
Last year, Bell turned down a five-year contract worth $60 million, so this shouldn’t come as a big surprise. If Bell is able to put together another strong season, Pelissero says he could use the franchise tag to his advantage in 2019 much like Kirk Cousins did before cashing in on a fully guaranteed deal with the Vikings.
Bell, 26, is a former second-round pick of the Steelers back in 2013. He played out the final year of his four-year, $4,120,600 rookie contract that included a $1,376,800 signing bonus and was in position to be one of the best players in the free agent market when he was franchised.
The Steelers used the franchise tag on Bell again this offseason, which means he stands to make $14.5 million fully guaranteed for the 2018 season before testing the open market as an unrestricted free agent next year.
In 2017, Bell has appeared in 15 games for the Steelers and rushed for 1, 291yards on 321 carries (4 YPC) to go along with 85 receptions for 655 yards receiving and 11 total touchdowns. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 9 running back out of 58 qualifying players.
We have him featured in our Top 25 – 2019 NFL Free Agents list.