Adam Schefter of ESPN mentioned during an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio that he thinks it’s a possibility that Steelers franchise RB Le’Veon Bell could sit out the first half of the 2018 season if they can’t get a long-term deal done before today’s deadline.
“I think it’s possible Le’Veon Bell sits out the first half of the year if he doesn’t get a long-term deal done,” Schefter said, per Ross Tucker.
Schefter added that Bell is focused on reaching free agency in 2019, as opposed to handling another large workload.
“The goal at that point would be to hit 2019 free agency healthy, not rack up another 400 touches,” Schefter said.
In order for Bell to get an accrued season, he would still have to return to the Steelers for the second half of the season. This is still surprising to hear, given that so few players have held out in recent years.
Earlier this morning, Ian Rapoport reported that the Steelers and Bell negotiated all weekend and talks are still expected to go down to the wire today.
While the two sides nearly reached an agreement last year, Rapoport says that the fear is the same situation plays out this year. According to Rapoport, the two sides plan to keep trying to get something done, but they aren’t optimistic.
Bell turned down a five-year contract worth $60 million last year. 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.