Steelers president Art Rooney said Wednesday that they would like to have a long-term contract in place with free agent RB Le’Veon Bell at some point this offseason.
“We would like to have a long-term contract with Le’Veon,’ Rooney said, per Mark Kaboly. “That is what we hope happens this offseason.”
Rooney added that they have the “next several weeks” to figure things out with Bell, per Jeremy Fowler.
If the Steelers plan to take their time in regards to negotiations with Bell, it’s going to require them to either use their franchise tag on him for the second straight year or allow him to meet with other teams.
Bell recently told TMZ Sports that he’s “tired” of trying to get a long-term agreement in place.
“I just wanna get a deal done,” Bell said. “I’m tired of having to deal with this every year.“
Bell later explained during an appearance on the NFL Network Friday that his focus in regards to contract talks with the Steelers is centered around the amount of guaranteed included in a long-term deal.
“Yeah, a lot of it is about the guarantees,” Bell said. “That’s what a long-term deal really is, you know? You want that security. That’s why I said I’ll play on the tag. All that’s going to be guaranteed. You want to tag me again, OK, all that’s going to be guaranteed. That’s how I kind of look at it because I don’t want sign a long-term deal and everybody says I signed for $70 million but only the first year is guaranteed. So the first $17 million that you make in that year that’s the only year that’s guaranteed…”
Bell was asked if, hypothetically, he would take $50 million guaranteed as part of a long-term deal with the Steelers.
“50 guaranteed? Absolutely,” Bell replied.
Last year, reports said that Bell actually turned down an offer from the Steelers that would have paid him $30 million over the first two years of the agreement. Bell instead opted to play out the year under the franchise tag.
“I don’t think it affected me the way that I played because I wasn’t necessarily thinking, ‘I don’t want to get hurt, I don’t want to get hurt,‘” Bell said. “I was just kind of playing physical. I knew after this year that they have to put me up front. I felt that kind of inspired me. I always want to find something to get you to play with a chip on your shoulder. Never [be] satisfied with where you’re playing. I always try to find something to motivate me to be a better player.”
Bell told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN that Pittsburgh has set an artificial deadline of Feb. 20 to negotiate a long-term extension, which happens to be the first day for teams to begin using franchise tags on players.
Before that, Bell said that the Steelers have already presented him with extension offer and they are “a lot closer” now than they were last year.
“We are a lot closer than we were last year,” Bell said, via ESPN. “I’m happy and the Steelers are happy right now where we’re at. Obviously we have to continue to get it done.”
Bell added he wants to prevent his contract situation from being a distraction again this year.
“I want to make sure everything is good,” Bell said. “I’m not trying to play the same episode again. We need something new. … Make everybody happy so everybody can come into the season and we don’t have no distractions.”
The 2018 franchise tag should run Pittsburgh close to $14.5 million fully guaranteed.
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 the free agent market when he was franchised.
Bell will make around $12.3 million fully guaranteed for the 2017 season under the tag and be an unrestricted free agent again in the coming months.
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 100 – 2018 NFL Free Agents list.