Le’Veon Bell’s agent Adisa Bakari denied that he and client ever had any agreement with the Steelers.
“All stories to contrary are false,” Bakari said, per Adam Schefter.
According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, RB Le’Veon Bell turned down a five-year contract that his agent agreed to with the Steelers at the last minute before the deadline to negotiate with franchise players.
Sources tell Bouchette that the five-year deal would have averaged over $12 million per year and would have paid him over $30 million in the first two years of the agreement.
These figures are consistent with a report from Tom Pelissero of NFL Media.
Bouchette’s sources have said that Bell wants to average $15 million per year as part of a long-term deal. However, even with a 20 percent increase next year, tagging Bell for a second straight season would still cost the Steelers less than $15 million.
Bouchette says Pittsburgh was “baffled” by Bell’s decision to pass on the deal.
Yesterday, Adam Schefter reported that Bell will report back to the team before the start of the 2017 regular season. However, it remains to be seen exactly when Bell will rejoin the Steelers.
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert recently mentioned that he still expects a big year from Bell despite him missing training camp due to a contract dispute.
“I fully expect Le’Veon Bell to be a significant contributor for the 2017 Steelers. That’s as simple as I can state it,” said Colbert, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.
When asked about Bell’s ability to remain healthy, Colbert said he believes training camp is beneficial when preparing for the regular season.
“I’ll argue that consistently,” Colbert said. “Training camp is important for the growth and preparedness to be ready to play this game opening week. We can argue about camp and preseason, how many games and all that, but I do know you need to practice this game to play it at the highest level. Someone once said it would be like boxing without sparring. You can’t just show up and play.”
The Steelers have said that they plan to pick up contract talks with Bell next year.
Bell, 25, 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 this year’s free agent market.
In 2016, Bell appeared in 12 games and running for 1,268 yards on 261 carries (4.9 YPC) to go along with 75 receptions for 616 yards receiving and three nine total touchdowns. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the No. 1 running back out of 62 qualifying players.