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Le’Veon Bell wants to be paid as a No. 1 RB and a No. 2 WR (but he won't be)

In the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-NFL Honors Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Le’Veon Bell is stuck with the franchise tag after he and the Steelers were unable to work out a long-term deal. One of the sticking points for Bell is that he wants to be paid for what he really contributes on the ground and as a receiver.

He’s got a point. Last season, he was sidelined for three games for missing a drug test, but he still led the team in rushing yards with 1,268. He was also second on the team for receiving yards with 616 and contributed nine total touchdowns.

"I'm arguably the top running back in the NFL and the No. 2 receiver on the Steelers, even though I play running back,” Bell said, via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “Their career receiving total vs. mine, they don't have more yards than me."

Bell told Ike Taylor on NFL Network that he wants to be paid as a top back and as the team’s No. 2 receiver. That’s extremely unlikely.

That breaks down to an average of $15.7 million per year. Bell will make $12.1 million this year under the franchise tag. McCoy’s per-year average is the next-highest in the NFL, and he’s making right around $8 million.

Keep going down the list of the league’s top-paid running backs and second receivers. Doug Martin’s deal pays him, on average, $7.1 million per year. Lamar Miller’s average annual payout is $6.5 million. The Lions, before Calvin Johnson retired, made a deal with Marvin Jones to be their No. 2 receiver for an average of $8 million per season. Atlanta’s Mohamed Sanu gets an average of $6.5 million per year.

You don’t have to go very far down the pay scale for top running backs and No. 2 wide receivers until the combined amount gets into the ballpark of Bell’s current one-year payout of $12.1 million on the franchise tag.

The Steelers reportedly offered Bell a five-year deal with a total of $42 million over the first three seasons, but that amount was not guaranteed. Bell opted for the tag instead.

So now it’s on Bell to demonstrate his worth as a rusher and a receiver this season. However, $15 million, or more, per year still feels like a stretch.

Bell carries some risk. He’s missed 14 regular season games over the past two years due to a combination of injuries and suspensions.

He’ll be 26 next spring, and his next contract should carry him through his 30th birthday, the age when running backs historically start to slow down.

There’s precedent working against Bell, too. The New Orleans Saints applied the franchise tag to tight end Jimmy Graham in 2014. Graham pushed to be categorized as a wide receiver instead of a tight end. The difference in the tag amount was over $5 million.

An arbitrator determined that Graham should be identified as a tight end even though he lined up in the slot or out wide as a traditional receiver on about two-thirds of the Saints’ offensive snaps in 2013. The crux of the ruling was that Graham’s versatility is standard for today’s varied offenses.

Graham ended up signing a deal with the Saints worth $40 million over four years and was traded to the Seahawks in 2015.

Bell’s value to the Steelers isn’t in question, and his impending free agency will set the tone for next year’s running back market. Some team is going to pay Bell plenty of money next season, but don’t expect it to be in the $15 million per year range.