Running back Le’Veon Bell predictably held out of training camp when the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to sign him to a long-term extension, but he was always expected to be available for the regular season.
Bell will earn $12.120 million on the one-year franchise tag.
Despite missing the entire preseason, Bell is ready to go:
Le'Veon Bell asked if, bc he's on a 1-year contract, he hopes touches limited: "I want as many carries as I need to get for us to win games"— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) September 4, 2017
The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell after a phenomenal season in which he recorded 1,884 yards from scrimmage despite missing three games to suspension and sitting in Week 17. The two sides went all the way to the July 17 deadline trying to negotiate a long-term contract, but nothing came to fruition and Bell started his holdout as a result. Since he wasn’t under contract, he didn’t incur any fines for skipping training camp.
Bell has been adamant about his desire to reset the market for running backs, wanting to be paid as both a No. 1 back and No. 2 receiver thanks to his contributions in the passing game.
"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."
He makes a compelling argument after getting 75 receptions for 616 yards last season, proving his worth as possibly the NFL’s best all-around back. However, the free agent market hasn’t been friendly to running backs for a while now, although Bell will be by far the biggest name at the position if he hits the open market in the offseason.
In the final days before Bell ended his holdout, he had a rap battle with his teammates and said that he’s aiming for a contract that will pay him $17 million.
Whether Bell gets the mega-contract he wants is an intriguing story, but that will have to wait until next year. For now, he’s ready to rejoin the Steelers, who will greatly appreciate having his unique talents in the backfield for at least one more season.