With Kirk Cousins and Trumaine Johnson widely expected to play out their second consecutive franchise tags, all eyes will be on the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ negotiations with Le’Veon Bell that are pressing against the 4 p.m. ET deadline.
Franchise tags are often a deadline-fueled standoff, and this appears to be no different.
The Steelers would prefer to complete a long-term deal with Bell, but they will want to keep the money reasonable.
He’s expected to play on a $12.1 million tag or an extension with a per-year average of something close to that.
Either way, Bell will soon be the league’s highest-paid back, surpassing LeSean McCoy‘s $8 million per year.
Here are a few key themes surrounding Bell’s negotiation:
The Triple B’s: Internally, the Steelers want to keep their own triangle offense of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Bell together for a while. That is a factor in negotiations. But while Big Ben and Brown are playing on contracts worth up to $168 million, Bell was arguably the best player of the three last year while averaging 157 total yards per game, third most ever for a tailback. That should aid Bell’s negotiations as a potential offset of past suspensions and injuries.
Finally healthy: Bell has recovered from offseason groin surgery and should be ready for training camp. The Steelers want to preserve Bell’s health, but don’t expect them to limit his carries — he touched the ball 28 times per game last year, often carrying the offense in the process. Bell has missed playoff action because of injuries in three straight years, but the Steelers don’t consider him brittle. At age 25, Bell should hold up…
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