The Steelers officially placed the franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell earlier this week, but it sounds like the two sides are progressing towards a long-term deal. ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler reports that the Steelers increased their offer recently and are close to Bell’s requested number.
The running back is reportedly seeking a deal that will pay him around $14.5MM annually. That’s similar value to the $14.544MM franchise tag, although an extension would obviously come with long-term security. Devonta Freeman is currently the game’s highest-paid running back at $8.25MM per year, a mark that Bell is looking to surpass.
Earlier this week, we continued to hear that the Steelers and Bell weren’t close to a new deal, with the running back still threatening retirement if he didn’t receive his desired deal. The running back told Fowler that playing the running back position on one-year deals felt like “settling.” However, the running back also acknowledged that he’s thought about playing on the franchise tag for a second-straight season and hitting free agency in 2019. He admitted earlier this week that he doesn’t want to miss any games, and he’s willing to bet on himself in order to secure that big payday.
“For me to get hurt [again] will take a lot,” Bell said. “I know when I’m 30 or 31 years old, I know I’ll be productive because I don’t depend solely on my athletic ability to get open and get yards. It’s more my mind. The Steelers know that.”
The 25-year-old had another productive season in 2017. He ultimately compiled 1,291 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on a career-high 321 carries. He also added another 85 receptions for 655 yards and two scores.
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