UPDATED 6:00 p.m. ET: After the Steelers and Bell failed to reach an agreement prior to Monday's 4 p.m. franchise tag deadline, Bell's agent (Adisa Bakari) stated this unfolding of events likely means that this season will be Bell's final one in Pittsburgh.
"His intention was to retire as a Steeler," Bakari told ESPN's Adam Schefter. "But now that there's no deal, the practical reality is, this now likely will be Le'Veon's last season as a Steeler."
After the deadline wrapped up, Bell also took to Twitter to predict that 2018 will be his best season to date:
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert also released a statement that put a positive spin on the day's events. "Even though we could not reach a long-term contract agreement with Le'Veon Bell, we are excited he will be with the team in 2018," Colbert said. "We worked very hard to find common ground, but we were unable to accomplish that prior to today's deadline. Le'Veon will play this season under the exclusive franchise tag designation.
"After the 2018 season is completed, we again will attempt to work out a long-term contract with Le'Veon in the hope that he will continue his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers."
Welp, sounds like typical training camp dysfunction. Speaking of, with or without Bell, the Steelers' TC opens up on July 25.
See original story below.
Le'Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers still have not hammered out a contract extension. The Steelers applied the franchise tag to the 26-year-old in March (for the second consecutive year), but their deadline to work out a long-term deal is about to pass. The deadline is 4 p.m. EST Monday, and working out a deal will be "challenging."
Despite Mike Tomlin’s confidence that a deal can be struck by 4 p.m. Monday, it will be challenging for Pittsburgh and Steelers’ franchised RB Le’Veon Bell to reach a long-term contract agreement, per league sources. The two sides came close last year and will keep trying Monday.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 16, 2018
ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that if the two parties do not work out a deal, Bell may sit out part of the 2018-19 NFL season—perhaps even half of it.
Whoa.— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) July 16, 2018
"I think it's possible Le'Veon Bell sits out first half of the year if he doesn't get a long term deal done." -@AdamSchefter on @SiriusXMNFL.
"The goal at that point would be to hit 2019 free agency healthy, not rack up another 400 touches."
This may put more money in Bell's pocket in the long run—protecting a running back's health in today's NFL is always a concern—but it would mean sacrificing some serious cash in the short term. He is under contract to earn $14.5 million in 2018.
This would probably be a smart move, by the way, to sit out the first 10 games but I'll believe a guy turns down $856K per week when I see it.— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) July 16, 2018
Bell rushed for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He's also a productive receiver; he hauled in 85 passes for 655 yards and two touchdowns.