Le’Veon Bell could not agree to a long-term extension with the Steelers.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The deadline to sign a player under the franchise tag to a long-term extension has come and gone, and the Pittsburgh Steelers and running back Le’Veon Bell were unable to agree to terms.
Despite intense negotiations between the two sides, the gap between demand and offer was too wide to bridge. As a result, Bell will earn $12.1 million under the franchise tag in 2017 (if and when he signs the tender) and become an unrestricted free agent next year.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to agree to terms on a long-term contract with Le’Veon Bell prior to today’s deadline,” said General Manager Kevin Colbert in a statement released by the team. “Le’Veon is scheduled to play this year under the Exclusive Franchise Tag designation. We will resume our efforts to address his contract situation following the 2017 season.”
As of Monday’s extension deadline, Bell had also not signed his franchise tender. And while he’s expected to do so, he’s under no obligation to attend training camp in the meantime. In fact, it’s entirely possible Bell could stay away from the team until mid-to-late August.
When Bell does ultimately sign his franchise tender, his $12.1 million salary will make him the highest-paid running back in the league on average. Behind him are LeSean McCoy ($8 million), Jonathan Stewart ($8 million) and Doug Martin ($7.15 million).
Ultimately, Bell will have some financial security in 2017, but that’s where it begins and ends. Next year, he’ll head towards an equally lucrative contract, but it may not be with the Steelers.