Running back Le’Veon Bell still hasn’t signed his franchise tender, and therefore he wasn’t spotted at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, according to multiple reports.
He can’t be fined, because he’s not under contract. He probably wouldn’t have participated anyway, since he’s coming off groin surgery. But he could have shown up as an observer as a goodwill gesture. His absence, while not unexpected, is a reminder that the clock is ticking on the possibility of the Steelers giving him a long-term deal.
The deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign a long-term deal is July 15. Once that passes, the player’s only option is to play on the one-year franchise tender, which for Bell is a little more than $12.1 million.
The Steelers want Bell to be happy, and don’t want Bell’s absence lasting into August. But a long-term deal won’t be easy. Bell is perhaps the NFL’s best running back, though he also has a history of injuries and suspensions. Large contracts for running backs usually aren’t great investments, either.
There’s no reason for concern at the moment. There’s more than a month to work out a long-term deal, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world for either side if Bell played this season on the franchise tag at more than $12 million. But the importance of Bell can’t be overstated: He’s the focal point of an offense that has Super Bowl aspirations, and there is very little depth behind him.
Bell’s absence on Tuesday was a reminder that his situation still needs a resolution that makes everyone happy.
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