It appears Le’Veon Bell’s relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers will end in divorce.
Bell and the Steelers failed to reach an agreement on a long-term contract before Monday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline for teams to sign their franchise players. That means the All-Pro running back will play the 2018 season under the $14.5 million franchise tag — and then likely skip town, according to Bell himself.
Bell’s agent, Adisa Bakari, also told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that this year “likely will be Le’Veon’s last season as a Steeler.”
The Steelers certainly tried to keep him around, though. Pittsburgh made several substantial long-term contract offers to Bell, the latest valued at five years and $70 million, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday.
That’s a hefty deal, and fans inevitably will question Bell for not taking the money. But at $14 million annually, it’s still not more valuable than the $14.5 million he’ll earn under the franchise tag this year, and Bell insisted back in April he wouldn’t play for less than that salary.
The question, of course, is whether another team will pay Bell that much in 2019 and beyond. The 26-year-old has racked up nearly 4,000 total yards over the last two seasons and is in the heart of his prime, but he’s also shouldered a massive workload as the dual-threat workhorse of Pittsburgh’s offense. A multiyear contract would take Bell into his 30s, where most NFL running backs see a steep drop-off in production.
Still, Bell should be the most coveted player on the free-agent market next offseason, while the Steelers may have to consider their future with Ben Roethlisberger’s potential retirement looming.
Thumbnail photo via Philip G. Pavely/USA TODAY Sports Images