Pittsburgh Steelers

Steeler RB Le’Veon Bell says he’ll sit out a season or retire if franchise tagged again

( Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell says he’s prepared to sit out a season, or even retire, if franchise tagged for a second year in a row, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports.

“I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I would definitely consider it,” he told Fowler.

Bell, 25, played on a $12.1 million franchise tag in 2017, and that number is projected to increase to around $14.5 million for next season. Teams can tag a player between Feb. 20 and March 6, after which they would have until July 16 at 4 p.m. ET to sign that player to a long-term contract.

Bell was offered a long-term contract last July that was reportedly worth up to $30 million in the first two years, but he turned it down because he felt the team didn’t value his full skill set.

Asked what the Steelers should do this offseason, Bell said, “Value me.”

“Just get the numbers straight, exactly where we want them. I’m not going to settle for anything,” Bell said. “I know what I do and what I bring 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 rushed 321 times for 1,291 yards and caught 85 passes for 655 yards, along with 11 total touchdowns in 2017. Bell has 7,996 total yards through 62 career games, which is the most of any NFL player over that span since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

Bell said he would “probably be done” with football if he did sit out the 2018 season.

“It will eventually come down to me playing on the tag or not,” Bell said. “They tag me again, it will be me [saying], ‘OK, do I want to play on the tag or do I not want to play on the tag?’ That’s what it comes down to. If I was a free agent and they let me go, be a free agent, then yeah, I’m going to go explore free agency, test the market.”

Bell appears comfortable with his legacy in the game and makes clear he cares more about setting a precedent for running backs than earning a few extra million dollars.

“I’ve made a lot of money, I’m happy where I’m at, I’ve got a good family — I don’t really need to play football,” said Bell, who has made around $16 million for his career. “Right now, I’m just kind of doing it because I love it. Now, I’ve done everything but own a Super Bowl …

“I don’t necessarily care about the money aspect of it. I just want to be valued where I’m at. If I am playing this game, I want to set standards for all the other running backs behind me, like Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, guys like that. I’m a guy they can kind of look at. I feel I can do that. I’m in a position where I can do that, and I’m going to do it.”

Asked if he was prepared to walk away from a productive career, Bell cited his favorite player growing up, Barry Sanders, who retired after 10 seasons.

“It’s about leaving a legacy. People will always remember what you did,” Bell said. “That’s why I run the way I run. I feel like I wanted to run differently than everybody else did. And I want to do things that everybody else hasn’t done. That’s how I’ve envisioned everything going forward.”

Bell later took to Twitter to say that his main focus right now is winning a Super Bowl.

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