Le’Veon Bell said last week he would consider sitting out the 2018 season if the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise tagged him again. The running back later walked back those comments, but this is certainly a situation that will come to a head in the future months.
Bell told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler before last Thursday’s practice he “would definitely consider” sitting out if tagged again.
The running back can prep his sittin’ pants.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday on NFL GameDay Morning that the Steelers are expected to franchise tag Bell for the second consecutive season.
After playing on a $12.1 million tag in 2017, Bell’s franchise number would be about $14.5 in 2018.
If Bell plays on the tag in back-to-back seasons he’ll make $26 million. Rapoport reported that if Bell had signed the long-term offer Pittsburgh pushed in front of him last year, he would have made $30 million over those two years.
It won’t come as a shock for the Steelers to utilize the tag for leverage on Bell. If they were willing to pay him $30 million for two years, they shouldn’t sneeze at $26 million for the NFL’s best dual-threat back.
Likewise, it won’t be a surprise if Bell sits out most of the offseason again when tagged. Last offseason, Bell wanted to get paid like the Steelers No. 1 back and No. 2 receiver. Nothing has changed since then. Bell remains the premier dual-threat in the NFL and a vital piece of the Steelers‘ Killer Bs.
As we’ve seen with Kirk Cousins, players have found leverage in the willingness to play out the string on year-by-year franchise tags, not leaping at a team’s first decent offer.
Throughout the Steelers‘ history they’ve worried about setting a precedent. Rapoport noted two situations when players attempted to sit out to force the Steelers‘ hand. In both circumstances the team got rid of that player: running back Franco Harris was released; linebacker Mike Merriweather was traded.
The Steelers are focused on the playoffs right now. Whenever that journey comes to an end, all eyes in Pittsburgh will turn to Bell’s contract situation, which could play out as a remake of last offseason’s drama.