Le'Veon Bell knows 2019 might be only chance to test worth

From ESPN - March 10, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Le'Veon Bell still hopes for a long-term deal with Pittsburgh that prolongs his run as the most celebrated Steelers running back since Jerome Bettis.

But the back-and-forth negotiations with the franchise over two offseasons have forced Bell to consider all options, including 2019 free agency. Playing prime years at a position with a short shelf life on one-year retainers kind of feels like settling, Bell said.

If they dont want to pay me long term, then let me go test the market, Bell said about the big picture in an interview with ESPN on Monday, a day before the Steelers officially placed the franchise tag on Bell at a salary of $14.544 million.

To be sure, Bell's asking price of at least $14.5 million per year has made a marriage workable but challenging. The Steelers have increased their offer in recent weeks and are believed to be close to his number.

But Bell said he has at least thought about this scenario: play a second consecutive year on the tag, resulting in a $26.664 million payout over two seasons, then hit free agency at age 27 and sign with Pittsburgh or any other suitors.

The Steelers and Bell have until July 16 to work on a deal, after which Bell plans to skip training camp if asked to play on the tag again. He has threatened retirement in interviews with ESPN but said during an Instagram Live chat Wednesday night that he does not want to miss games. Passing on nearly $1 million per game is not exactly sound financial planning.


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