Bell was hopeful that a deal would be finalized by the 4 p.m. ET deadline but said the two sides weren’t particularly close. Bell confirmed that he will play on the $12.12 million franchise tag but isn’t sure when he’ll sign his tender or report to camp, which begins July 27.
“It’s a little frustrating, but it’s a business,” said Bell, who declined to comment on the particulars of the Steelers’ offer or his own projection of his worth. “I’m not in a rush to sign for something I’m not valued at if I feel I’m worth more than what they are offering me.”
Bell said the negotiations with the Steelers weren’t personal and the team didn’t try to knock him for his past injuries during the process. He remains optimistic that both sides can reach an extension after the season.
The way Bell sees it, he’s a standard-bearer for a stagnate running back market. The Buffalo Bills‘ LeSean McCoy is currently the league’s highest-paid running back at about $8 million per season. That means Bell, like his running style, must be patient.
“The running back market definitely took a hit, and I can’t be the guy who continues to let it take a hit,” Bell said. “We do everything: We block, we run, we catch the ball. Our value isn’t where it needs to be. I’m taking it upon myself to open up some eyes and show the position is more valuable.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin will be the second-highest-paid running back by base salary, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System. But in terms of “cash value,” Bell’s total is second among running backs behind that of Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Leonard Fournette, who will make $18.3 million in cash thanks to his $17.89 million signing bonus.