Le’Veon Bell is a free agent this offseason, and it sounds like the Pittsburgh Steelers would like to resolve the running back’s contract situation sooner rather than later.
Bell, who has spent his entire five-year career with the Steelers, told ESPN this week the organization has set an artificial deadline of Feb. 20 — the first day of franchise tagging — to work out a new contract. There seemingly is motivation from both sides to strike a deal.
“We are a lot closer than we were last year,” Bell said Wednesday after Pro Bowl practice, per ESPN.com. “I’m happy and the Steelers are happy right now where we’re at. Obviously we have to continue to get it done.”
Bell reportedly wouldn’t reveal specifics about the latest contract offer made by the Steelers, but the 25-year-old sounds much more optimistic than he did earlier this month when he threatened to retire or sit out the entire 2017 season if Pittsburgh uses the franchise tag on him for a second straight year.
Bell, who turned down a long-term deal in 2017, played on a $12.1 million franchise tag this past season. A second tag would be worth around $14.5 million.
Bell is coming off a season in which he totaled 1,291 rushing yards and 655 receiving yards on a career-high 85 catches. The former second-round pick is averaging 129 scrimmage yards per game since entering the league, the most for any NFL player over the first five years of a career.