PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Nearly 48 hours shy of the deadline to do so, the Steelers used the franchise tag on All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, the club announced Monday.
Bell, the fastest player in NFL history to rush for 3,000 career yards and gain 1,500 receiving yards, was set to become an unrestricted free agent if the two sides hadn’t reached a deal. As a result of being franchise tagged, Bell receives a one-year tender for an amount that is the average of the salaries of the five highest-paid running backs in the league. That figure is expected to be more than $12 million. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Pittsburgh used the exclusive franchise tag on Bell, preventing him from negotiating with other teams.
Per the team website, Steelers President Art Rooney II and General Manager Kevin Colbert have expressed an interest in doing a long-term deal with Bell, and this gives the two sides time to work out a deal. July 15th is the deadline for teams to reach a long-term deal with players on whom they’ve used the franchise tag. If a new contract is not signed by July 15, Bell will play the 2017 season on a one-year contract at that estimated $12 million salary.
Bell, a second round pick by Pittsburgh in the 2013 draft, rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games last season.