Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell reportedly turned down a $70 million offer before breaking off contract talks with Pittsburgh.
Bell, who instead will play under a one-year deal worth $14.55 million due to the franchise designation, reportedly was seeking a contract worth at least $14.5 million per year.
NFL Network reported the contract Pittsburgh offered included $33 million guaranteed in the first two years and a value of $45 million over the first three years (not all guaranteed).
Bell took to social media after the Monday deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign a long-term extension came and went quietly.
After his agent posted a comment about 2018 being Bell’s final season with the Steelers, the 26-year-old back reiterated much of what his agent said but not committing to 2018 being his last season in Pittsburgh: “to all my Steeler fans, my desire always has been to retire a Steeler...both sides worked extremely hard today to make that happen, but the NFL is a hard business at times...to the fans that had hope, I’m sorry we let you down but trust me, 2018 will be my best season to date...”
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert released a statement, saying, “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. 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,” he continued.
In his five seasons in Pittsburgh, Bell has had at least 1,200 yards rushing and 600 yards receiving three times. He is a two-time first-team All-Pro, has been named to three Pro Bowls and is generally regarded as the best all-around running back in the league.
But his contract squabbles with the club have become an annual offseason ritual. ESPN reported Monday that Bell could sit out until midseason in hopes of hitting free agency fresh.
After not signing under the franchise tag until Sept. 4 last season, Bell averaged fewer than 3.5 yards per carry through the first three weeks. But he finished with a league-high 321 carries for 1,291 yards along with 85 catches for 655 yards and 11 total touchdowns.
The two franchise-tag contracts for Bell — 2017 and 2018 — will total a combined $26.62 million.
—Field Level Media