Le'Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell Doesn’t Report For Steelers Workouts

Franchise-tagged running back Le’Veon Bell did not report for the beginning of the Steelers offseason workout program, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.

Bell wasn’t expected to attend Pittsburgh’s workout sessions, which are voluntary, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be staying in shape. Per Fowler, Bell will workout “rigorously” on his own over the next several months in lieu of showing up at official team meetings.

Staying clear of team workouts is typically standard practice for franchise players who have yet to sign their tenders. After Lions defensive Ezekiel Ansah inked his tag on Tuesday, Bell now stands as the only tagged player who is not officially under contract.

The Steelers and Bell have until July to work out a long-term agreement, but negotiations — as they did in 2017, when Bell was also assigned the franchise tag — have lived of the brink of contentiousness. As of late March, contract talks were on hold, and it’s unclear if the two sides have resumed negotiations since. Bell has already said he has no plans to sit out the 2018 season, but he will likely stay away until the preseason is concluded.

Bell, of course, is arguably the most dynamic offensive weapon in the NFL. In 2017, the 26-year-old Bell led the league with 321 carries while posting 1,291 rushing yards and nine scores. He also totaled a whopping 85 receptions and 655 yards in the passing game.

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Latest On Steelers, Le’Veon Bell

While the Steelers are putting off their latest round of Le’Veon Bell negotiations until after the draft, the running back specified the offer he received last year.

Bell said the Steelers offered him a deal at last July’s deadline that averaged $13.3MM per year, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports. This differs slightly from the reports that emerged indicating Bell turned down a deal that would have paid him $30MM over the first two years.

Fowler reports Bell increased his asking price in time for the 2018 negotiations, and that caused the Steelers to step back (via another franchise tag) and reassess where they stand with their All-Pro running back.

It’s logical Bell’s price would go up, given his 2018 tag number being $14.5MM instead of $12.1MM and that the cap now resides at $177MM. A report earlier this week said Bell may be looking for $17MM AAV, but Fowler said that’s probably just a negotiating tactic rather than a baseline price. He expects the 26-year-old back’s floor remains the $14.5MM franchise tag number, with it possibly taking more than $15MM per year to seal the deal.

The Steelers have increased their offer to Bell over the past year, and Fowler adds that while the Steelers have yet to decide if they want to pay a running back $15MM per year, the gap is not wide enough to rule out an agreement by this year’s July deadline. Fowler fully expects these talks to run up to that midsummer date. With the Steelers expected to continue their practice of making the only guaranteed portion of a deal being the signing bonus, Bell is concerned with a contract’s per-year average as well as its guarantees.

He adds that this may look like a Kirk Cousins situation but differentiates the two setups by noting the Steelers are fully confident Bell is an elite player. However, Pittsburgh decision-makers are concerned about setting a league-wide precedent of paying running backs what Bell is asking when the most a currently signed back makes per year is barely north of $8MM.

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AFC North Notes: Steelers, Bell, Bengals

Is Le’Veon Bell looking for $17MM/year? There have been rumblings about the running back looking for a salary equivalent to Antonio Brown‘s, but as Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com understands it, that’s not quite the case. When asked earlier this offseason about how much he would need to take the field, the Steelers star said he wouldn’t take anything less than $14.5MM annually (the value of his franchise tender) over the course of a long-term deal. That answer implies that a deal could be reached for roughly $15MM/year, which may be more realistic.

Here’s more on Bell plus other news out of the AFC North:

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Bell, Browns

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has threatened to hold out or even retire if he doesn’t get a contract extension, but his best bet would be to follow the path of his former college teammate Kirk Cousins, Michael David Smith of PFT argues. By signing the franchise tender, Bell would nearly guarantee that he can reach unrestricted free agency next year since a third consecutive tag would cost upwards of $20MM. On the open market, Bell could completely reset the market for running backs and score big bucks for both his rushing ability and pass-catching acumen.

Of course, there is a risk of Bell suffering a serious injury in 2018 and hurting his future earnings, but even in a worst case scenario, the tender would pay him $14.56MM.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Browns coach Hue Jackson has dreamed about a defensive line bookended by former No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett and top prospect Bradley Chubb, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. “I do at nighttime when I’m by myself,” Jackson said this week. “You kind of play that scenario game with all these different guys. I wish I could have them all. There will be good scenarios as we come down to the end here.” The Browns, of course, are widely expected to select a quarterback at No. 1 overall, but their options are wide open with the No. 4 pick. The Giants and Jets are also likely to select QBs, but even the Giants abstain from choosing Eli Manning‘s successor, either Chubb or Penn State running back Saquon Barkley should be there for the taking. For all of the attention given to the top four QBs in this year’s class, many draft analysts consider Chubb and Barkley to be this year’s top overall talents.
  • Running back is not the Ravens‘ top need, but they did meet with LSU running back Derrius Guice on a predraft visit, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun writes. It seems unlikely that Guice will be a fit for Baltimore for a few reasons. For starters, they currently pick at No. 16, which may be a reach for Guice. The Ravens also have a decent backfield group headlined by Alex Collins with Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon in support. There’s room for someone who could be a solid rusher as well as a dynamic pass-catcher in the mold of Bell, but Saquon Barkley fits that profile much more than Guice. At LSU, Guice had only 32 receptions in three seasons.

Steelers Put Le’Veon Bell Talks On Hold

The Steelers are putting negotiations with star running back Le’Veon Bell on hold while the team continues to navigate free agency and prepare for the draft, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. GM Kevin Colbert indicated that his club will resume talks with Bell’s reps “eventually,” and he hopes Bell will report to training camp.

Colbert added, “We’re not intentionally ignoring [Bell’s contract]. More urgent business needs to get taken care of. We will reassess where that is. He’ll reassess where his interests are as well. I anticipate us continuing that process once we get through the free agency period and maybe even through the draft. The draft can change things on both sides.”

We heard several weeks ago that Pittsburgh was getting closer to meeting Bell’s asking price, but obviously the team has not gotten there yet. Bell, of course, was hit with the franchise tag for the second consecutive season earlier this month, and while he will receive a healthy $14.544MM if he plays out the 2018 campaign under the tag, he is still looking for long-term security at a rate that the Steelers do not seem to be willing to pay.

Nonetheless, both Fowler and Mark Kaboly of TheAthletic.com (Twitter link) believe it is unlikely that the Steelers rescind Bell’s franchise tag. If they did, it could leave Bell in a tough position, as many teams have already spent their free agent budget, and even those that have not done so would probably be just as unwilling as the Steelers to satisfy Bell’s contract demands. Therefore, Bell may have to simply sign the franchise tender at some point prior to the start of the season. He has indicated previously that he will not attend training camp if he does not get a multi-year deal to his liking, even though his early-season performance in 2017 was not up to his usual standards, perhaps because he also skipped last year’s training camp.

Colbert’s comments that the team cannot divert its attention from free agency right now may raise some eyebrows given the Steelers’ small amount of cap room, but Kaboly tweets that Pittsburgh may not be done in free agency if a player it likes unexpectedly becomes available.

The Steelers also have several other in-house matters to resolve. Colbert said that the team could still extend Ben Roethlisberger‘s contract this offseason, which was mentioned as a possibility last month (Twitter link via Fowler). Big Ben’s current deal keeps him under club control through 2019.

Also, Kaboly tweets that no decision has been made with respect to Bud Dupree‘s fifth-year option, which must be exercised by May 3, but Fowler tweets that Colbert seems open to exercising it.

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Latest On Le’Veon Bell, Steelers Negotiations

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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Le’Veon Bell Won’t Sit Out 2018 Season

Recently, Le’Veon Bell has intimated that he could retire or potential sit out the 2018 season if he doesn’t get a multi-year extension to his liking. In an Instagram live video on Wednesday, Bell indicated that neither scenario is really in play. 

Honestly, no, I’m not going to sit out. I’m going to be in the facility Week 1,” Bell said (via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler). “It’s going to be a rerun of last year. I’m not going to [training] camp. I’m not doing nothing else extra, OTAs, none of that. … I’m going to strictly go to what I have to go to. I want to win every game. I want to have the best statistical career that I possibly can, so I want to play in every game that I can possibly play.”

Earlier in week, Bell indicated in an interview with Billboard.com that he might consider sitting out until Week 10 of the season. If Bell were to sit out beyond that point, he would not accrue the necessary year in order to reach free agency in 2019. However, his latest comments are a sign that he is fully intent on playing, despite past threats.

Without threats of retirement or a holdout that extends into the regular season, Bell doesn’t have a ton of leverage. The Steelers want to see Bell in training camp, particularly in light of his early season struggles when he held out in 2017, but that probably won’t give Bell enough juice to move the needle.

For now, the Steelers have Bell under a placeholder on Bell for 2018 at a cost of $14.544MM. The Steelers have the option of rescinding the tag late in the offseason if Bell stalls, which would leave him without a feasible market once most of the league’s cap room is dried up.

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Steelers Apply Franchise Tag To Le’Veon Bell

As expected, the Steelers have hit Le’Veon Bell with the franchise tag. The move will prevent the running back from exploring unrestricted free agency while giving the two parties until July to hammer out a long-term deal. 

On Monday, Bell indicated that he was still far apart with the Steelers on contract negotiations. He also said that his threat of retirement from January was legitimate and still in play.

The Steelers, ostensibly, are willing to make Bell the league’s highest-paid running back with a deal that tops Devonta Freeman‘s $8.25MM average yearly salary. Bell, meanwhile, wants a contract that reflects his value not only as a rusher, but as a receiver.

Bell certainly has a case. In 2017, he had 85 catches and 655 yards with two receiving touchdowns. That didn’t detract much from his rushing totals, either. Bell racked up 1,291 yards and nine rushing TDs off of a league-high 321 carries in 2017.

The Steelers now find themselves in a very similar position as last season. They have cuffed Bell with a one-year placeholder, this time at a 20% increase, amounting to $14.544MM. Bell did not take kindly to the move last summer and waited until just before the season to ink his tender. The 26-year-old could do the same this year or even ramp up the retirement talk.

If Bell holds out, the Steelers will not be without leverage. If Bell plays games, the Steelers could threaten to relinquish the tag late in the offseason and leave him on the curb after most of the league’s cap room has already been spoken for.

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Le’Veon Bell, Steelers Far Apart

So much for the positive updates on talks between Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers. On the eve of the league’s franchise tagging deadline, the running back says that the two sides are far apart in talks (via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler). Furthermore, Bell added that he was not bluffing in January when he said that he is contemplating retirement if he does not get the kind of deal he is after. 

We’re not coming to a number we both agree on — they are too low, or I guess they feel I’m too high,” Bell said. “I’m playing for strictly my value to the team, that’s what I’m asking. I don’t think I should settle for anything less than what I’m valued at.

Instead of looking at his value in terms of what he brings to the Steelers, Bell gets the sense that the team is putting a greater focus on the running back market as a whole. Currently, Falcons tailback Devonta Freeman stands as the game’s highest-paid running back at $8.25MM per year. Bell has previously stated that he wants a deal that reflects his value not just as a runner, but as a lethal pass catcher. He remains more optimistic about talks than he was last year, but he doesn’t see anything coming together between now and Tuesday afternoon.

We might get something done,” Bell said. “I’m hoping for something to get done but I’m not expecting it to [before Tuesday].

As it stands, the Steelers are expected to tag Bell for a second consecutive season, this time at the inflated cost of $14.544MM. The mechanism, in theory, would keep Bell in place for the 2018 season, but his retirement threat could throw a wrench into plans, depending on how seriously it is received by the Steelers.

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Steelers Expected To Tag Le’Veon Bell

Despite some early optimism at getting a multi-year deal done, the Steelers are expected to franchise tag running back Le’Veon Bell before the Tuesday deadline, barring a dramatic turn in talks (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Both sides will continue working on a deal, but it sounds like Bell will first be held in place with a one-year, $14.544MM tender. 

If they go through with the tag, this will mark the second straight year in which the Steelers have franchised Bell. Last year, Bell did not take kindly to Pittsburgh’s long-term offers and took his time before signing the one-year placeholder. The running back wound up skipping training camp and the preseason before finally inking the tender in early September. It’s conceivable that Bell could take a similar approach this year if talks stall once again.

For what it’s worth, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert is optimistic about the team’s odds of re-signing Bell.

I believe I am [confident]. … I think with both sides wanting to get something done,” the longtime Steelers GM said. “… I think that certainly aids your ability to get that done.”

Last year, Bell rejected a five-year offer that would have paid him a guaranteed $30MM over the course of the first two years and $60MM overall. No one knows exactly what Bell is asking for this time around, but he has indicated that he would accept a deal with $50MM guaranteed.

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