In the final hours before the deadline to sign Le’Veon Bell to a long-term contract, the Pittsburgh Steelers thought they agreed to terms with the running back’s agent, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. But then Bell nixed the deal.
Bell, 25, may be the NFL’s best running back and he wants a contract that will reset the market at the position. Shortly after the failure to agree with the Steelers on a new contract, Bell told ESPN that he believes he should be paid like the team’s top running back as well as its No. 2 receiver.
According to the Post-Gazette’s report, Bell was offered a five-year deal that would’ve averaged $12 million per year with $30 million headed his way in the first two years.
That’s essentially the same numbers that Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported one day after the July 17 deadline. The Post-Gazette’s report reveals that Bell appeared to be close to accepting it, although Bell’s agent denied that Friday:
Le'Veon Bell's agent Adisa Bakari said he and client never had any agreement with Steelers. "All stories to contrary are false," he said.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 18, 2017
Bell is currently slated to make $12.12 million on a one-year deal under the franchise tag in 2017, but no other running back has a contract that averages more than even $9 million per season.
But Bell’s sights have been set higher than $12 million for a while. After averaging 105.7 rushing yards and 51.3 receiving yards per game in 2016, he’s hoping for a number that will average closer to $15 million and has said so many times.
Pelissero reported that the Steelers were hesitant to provide guarantees in later seasons of Bell’s contract, which may have contributed to his decision not to sign the deal.
Bell hasn’t yet reported to the Steelers and doesn’t have to until he signs his franchise tender, although he’d begin to forfeit chunks of his $12.12 million salary if he doesn’t return to the team before the regular season begins. That would be a surprise, though, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter says Bell plans to report with the team sometime before the season begins.
The Steelers can’t do anything about Bell’s contract situation at this point, so it’s a moot point until the 2018 offseason. But the running back has made it clear that he won’t be signed for cheap, and that could mean he leaves Pittsburgh next offseason.