Le'Veon Bell would consider retiring if franchise tagged

Posted January 14, 2018

Among running backs under contract for next year, Devonta Freeman's average salary of $8.25 million is No. 1.

It is always hard to know whether players' threats are just negotiating ploys, but Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell told ESPN.com that he is willing to sit out a season, and perhaps even retire, if the franchise tag is placed on him for the second year in a row.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell made it clear he doesn't want another franchise tag.

Since Pittsburgh picked Bell in the second round of the 2013 draft, he has compiled 5,336 rushing yards and scored 35 touchdowns on the ground. Another reason the Steelers might balk at giving him the long-term deal he wants is that Bell has previously been suspended for substance use, putting him at risk for further (and longer) suspensions. He said a return to the National Football League is unlikely if he sits out the 2018 season.

Le'Veon Bell isn't messing around.

. Bell already turned down a deal that reportedly would have given him $30 million guaranteed over the first two seasons.

Bell knew the Steelers wanted to see him play a full season.

The Steelers - who face the Jaguars in the Divisional Round Sunday afternoon - would have to tag Bell between February 20 and March 6, leaving them until July 16 to work out a multi-year deal.

While Bell should not want to play under the franchise tag for a second straight season, that's really up to the Steelers organization unfortunately.

If Bell were to sit out the year, he told ESPN, he would likely be finished with football. Bell's desire with regards to the terms of a new contract is simple: for the team to show that it values everything he brings to the table. "I'm not going out here getting the ball 400 times if I'm not getting what I feel I'm valued at".

Bell said he would "probably" walk away from the game if he skipped 2018. That's doubtful, but he's definitely not on board with playing under the franchise tag again, that's for sure. I'm a guy they can kind of look at. If he gets tagged and doesn't get to test free agency, then things might get sticky. "Right now, I'm just kind of doing it because I love it".

Bell's comments, however, suggest the latter path could cause a standoff. He mentioned the words "Super Bowl" several times in the interview.