The Steelers don’t need to spend much time trying to persuade running back Le’Veon Bell to sign his franchise tender. Receiver Antonio Brown is doing the heavy lifting for them.
After public comments that followed a private conversation that created the clear impression that Brown wants Bell to accept the pending $12.1 million offer and to be “committed to the cause,” Brown has taken to Twitter with a “let’s go”-style plea for the teammate Brown wants to see at training camp.
The fact that Brown feels compelled to lobby Bell to show up confirms that a holdout is indeed possible. But Brown would be wise to tread lightly here.
The window on a long-term deal for Bell closed last Monday. Unless the Steelers plan to offer Bell more than $12.1 million for 2017 or to promise not to use the franchise tag again in 2018, there’s nothing more the Steelers can do to get him signed. Which means that Brown’s plea, absent a similar message to management aimed at getting them to sweeten the one-year pot, could be interpreted by Bell as an effort to pressure him to accept a franchise tender that, to date, he has decided to reject.
Brown has now gotten a pair of multi-year deals without ever having to play out a contract or operate under the franchise tag. Bell has yet to get any kind of long-term security. Whatever Bell’s plan for enhancing his financial position, Brown’s effort to get Bell to take the offer squeezes him to alter his approach. Perhaps more importantly, Brown’s well-intentioned exercise in teamwork could turn fans already inclined to embrace rookie James Conner against Bell.
So if Brown is going to continue to try to get Bell to show up, at some point he needs to publicly urge the people who have paid Brown millions to offer Brown another $3 million or so more for 2017.