Within the next 17 days, the Steelers and running back Le’Veon Bell will, or won’t, strike a long-term deal. However it works out, Bell apparently has no complaints.
“I’m good with everything, just taking it day to day for real,” Bell said Friday, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.
It’s easy to have that attitude when having real leverage, as Bell does. Absent a long-term deal, he’ll get $12.1 million in 2017, if/when he signs the franchise tender. And he can skip all of training camp and the preseason and still get the full amount, if he so desires.
If the Steelers tag him again in 2018, Bell’s salary would climb to $14.52 million, giving him a two-year haul of $26.7 million. If the Steelers don’t tag him again, he’d become an unrestricted free agent at the age of 26.
Given the market at the tailback position, where LeSean McCoy of the Bills currently has the high-water mark at $8 million per year, it won’t be easy or the Steelers to justify a long-term deal with the tag as the starting point. Which could mean it will be only one more year for Bell in Pittsburgh.
Until he signs the tender, the chance (however slim) remains that he won’t be back in Pittsburgh at all. If the Steelers decide that they’re happy with the alternatives to Bell, each of whom come many millions cheaper, the Steelers can rescind the tender, making Bell at free agent at a time when he’d be hard pressed to get a long-term deal or a one-year deal worth $12 million.