Ian Rapoport of NFL Media says that the Steelers don’t believe RB Le’Veon Bell and his threat to sit out the 2018 season or possibly retire if they use their franchise tag on him for the season straight season.
In fact, the Steelers are still expected to franchise Bell again in 2018, according to Rapoport.
While it’s likely that Bell will get tagged, Rapoport says that the Steelers will still try to work out a long-term deal before the July deadline. However, it’s unlikely Pittsburgh will cave to Bell’s demands unless they’re in line with what they’re willing to offer.
Here’s what Bell said on Thursday about possibly sitting out the season or retiring if franchised.
“I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I would definitely consider it,” Bell said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.
When asked what he believes the Steelers should do this offseason, Bell said: “Value me.”
“Just get the numbers straight, exactly where we want them. I’m not going to settle for anything,” Bell said. “I know what I do and what I bring to the table. I’m not going out here getting the ball 400 times if I’m not getting what I feel I’m valued at.”
If Bell were to sit out the 2018 season, he says he would “probably be done” with football.
“It will eventually come down to me playing on the tag or not,” Bell said. “They tag me again, it will be me [saying], ‘OK, do I want to play on the tag or do I not want to play on the tag?’ That’s what it comes down to. If I was a free agent and they let me go, be a free agent, then yeah, I’m going to go explore free agency, test the market.”
Bell says he doesn’t care about he money as much he does about simply being valued by the team.
“I’ve made a lot of money, I’m happy where I’m at, I’ve got a good family — I don’t really need to play football,” said Bell. “Right now, I’m just kind of doing it because I love it. Now, I’ve done everything but own a Super Bowl …
“I don’t necessarily care about the money aspect of it. I just want to be valued where I’m at. If I am playing this game, I want to set standards for all the other running backs behind me, like Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, guys like that. I’m a guy they can kind of look at. I feel I can do that. I’m in a position where I can do that, and I’m going to do it.”
It’s worth mentioning that Bell did say he would like to finish out his career in Pittsburgh.
“I want to be here, finish my career here,” Bell said. “But if not, I’ll just handle it however I’ve got to handle it.”
Bell is expected to be seeking at least the $16 million per year he was asking this past summer as part of a long-term deal.
Last July, the Steelers’ final offer to Bell was reportedly worth $30 million over the first two years of the agreement, which is more money than Bell would have made under two franchise tags. Beyond that, the deal would have paid Bell an average of $13 million per year, which is huge money for a running back these days.
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.