Julio Jones Would Pay Le'Veon Bell, Wishes NFL Would Get Rid of Franchise Tag

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2018

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) plays in an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Don Wright/Associated Press

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones said he'd give Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell a lucrative long-term contract extension if he ran an NFL franchise.

On Tuesday, TMZ Sports passed along comments from the five-time Pro Bowler, who also suggested a change to the rules.

"I wish they could do away with the franchise tag," Jones said.

Here's a look at the full interview:

Jones avoided the franchise tag as he neared the end of his rookie deal with the Falcons. He signed a five-year, $71.3 million extension with the organization in 2015 to keep him under contract through the 2020 season.

Bell has been unable to secure a similar long-term commitment from the Steelers.

Pittsburgh announced Tuesday it placed the tag on the 26-year-old rusher for the second straight year. It equates to a one-year, $14.5 million contract, per Spotrac.

The three-time Pro Bowler told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com in January that retirement remains an option, saying he'll decide whether to play in 2018 "when the time comes."

"We're not coming to a number we both agree on—they are too low, or I guess they feel I'm too high," Bell said. "I'm playing for strictly my value to the team. That's what I'm asking. I don't think I should settle for anything less than what I'm valued at."

The inability to secure a financial commitment is of particular concern for running backs due to the limited careers typically associated with the heavy punishment they take.

That's especially true for Bell, who's accumulated 1,229 rushing attempts and 312 receptions across his five years with the Steelers. His production has stayed among the league's best; he had 1,946 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in 2017.

Bell explained to Fowler he's still hopeful the sides can reach an agreement on something more substantial before the July 16 deadline to extend franchised players: "Earlier I said I felt we would get one done, and this year we are a lot closer than last year. In good spirit, I feel we can get something done."