"If Bell plays under terms of the franchise tag, don't expect to see him until the first week of September, giving other players the chance to get first-team reps in training camp. At stake is a $14.55 million tender, which is about the same amount of money Bell is requesting yearly in a long-term contract. If a deal isn't reached by July 16, Bell won't be anywhere near Saint Vincent in July and August."
Bell's value to Pittsburgh is unmistakable. The 26-year-old rushed for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns last season, adding 85 receptions for 655 yards and two touchdowns. It was the fourth season in his five-year career he registered at least 1,250 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus ranked Bell as the No. 71 player in the NFL last season, writing:
"Bell's production dipped a little in 2017, but he was still one of the game's most dynamic playmakers when he was in form and was able to handle a monstrous workload for the Steelers all season. He broke 61 total tackles between carries and receptions and had 406 combined touches from scrimmage. Bell dropped just 4-of-89 catchable targets this season."
Bell's ability to impact the game as a runner, receiver and blocker makes him arguably the most complete weapon at running back in the NFL. For that reason, it isn't surprising he's seeking the long-term security of a contract extension, especially considering that running backs often have a shorter shelf life than other positions, and Bell would have no future earnings were he to suffer a career-ending injury this upcoming season.
The Steelers, at least to this point, haven't been willing to offer an extension at the number Bell is seeking.
The team could choose to use the franchise tag a third time on Bell, but would have to pay him 144 percent the amount of the first tag, which was $12.1 million. That means Bell could make $17.4 million next season under the tag, though the Steelers would be seriously jeopardizing their long-term relationship with the running back if they tag him three seasons in a row.
Washington used the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins twice, for instance, before the quarterback bolted to the Minnesota Vikings in free agency this offseason.