Le'Veon Bell says next year is 'irrelevant' after franchise tag comments

Business plan: Bell ready to carry heavy load for Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell isn't interested in being hit with the franchise tag for a second straight season.

"I hope it doesn't come to that, but I would definitely consider it", Bell told ESPN.

If Bell is tagged again, his salary next season is projected to go up to roughly $14.5 million. Bell has wanted a massive contract, citing the desire to help all running backs in an era that has devalued the position. He was slated to hit the open market past year before the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him, fearful he would sign elsewhere. Based on Thursday's comments, however, Bell and the Steelers could be looking at some contentious contract negotiations this coming offseason.

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Retirement seems extreme, but Bell's rationalization to ESPN was that if he sits out 2018, he'd probably be finished entirely. "I'm not going to settle for anything", Bell said. "Right now, I'm just kind of doing it because I love it".

"I don't necessarily care about the money aspect of it", explains Bell. The All-Pro back reiterated that he just wants to be properly valued.

That term kept coming up in the ESPN story: value. Bell already turned down a deal that reportedly would have given him $30 million guaranteed over the first two seasons. Bell was so adamant about being paid as BOTH a top running back and a top wide receiver that he was willing to leave $18 million in guaranteed money in 2017 alone on the table.

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Bell had 406 touches in 15 games this season and was on pace for the 13th-most touches for a season in National Football League history if he played in the regular-season finale (coach Mike Tomlin rested several starters). Bell is arguably the best running back in football; the Steelers aren't letting him just waltz into free agency.

The Steelers are embarking on their fourth straight trip to the postseason, and Pittsburgh has reached the playoffs in all but three of Mike Tomlin's 11 years as head coach. Bell did not report to training camp at Saint Vincent and signed the tender the week before the regular season.

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