Bell, three others will play under franchise tag

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) will play under the franchise tag again in 2018.Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports (file photo)

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None of the four players who received a franchise tag got a long-term deal completed by Monday afternoon’s deadline, and the agent for Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell said it probably means Bell will not be a Steeler in 2019.

Los Angeles Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner, Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah also will play under the franchise tag. However, those three were expected to fall short in their quest for long range deals.

The only question heading into Monday was Bell, and his agent confirmed Monday afternoon that Bell will play under the franchise tag again.

“His intention was to retire as a Steeler,” Adisa Bakari, Bell’s agent, told Adam Schefter of ESPN. “But now that there’s no deal, the practical reality is, this now likely will Le’Veon’s last season as a Steeler.”

The Steelers released a statement saying they will revisit a long-term deal for Bell after the 2018 season.

“Even though we could not reach a long-term contract agreement with Le’Veon Bell, we are excited he will be with the team in 2018,” Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert said in the statement. “We worked very hard to find common ground, but we were unable to accomplish that prior to today’s deadline. Le’Veon will play this season under the exclusive franchise tag designation. After the 2018 season is completed, we again will attempt to work out a long-term contract with Le’Veon in the hope that he will continue his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

The 26-year-old Bell is set to make $14.5 million this season under the franchise tag. He will become a free agent after this season.

According to ESPN.com, the Steelers made a contract offer last summer and another over the winter starting at approximately $13.3 million per year on average. The Steelers raised their offer slightly, but Bell turned both down. In April he told ESPN he would not accept less than $14.5 million per year in a long-term contract.

Bell tweeted a message after failing to get a long-term deal. The message read: “To all my Steeler fans, my desire always has been to retire a Steeler…both sides worked extremely hard today to make that happen, but the NFL is a hard business at times…to the fans that had hope, I’m sorry we let you down but trust me, 2018 will be my best season to date.”

It remains to be seen whether Bell will report to the team for the start of training camp. After failing to reach a long-term deal last year, Bell did not sign until September 4.

Schefter reported earlier Monday that Bell might sit out the first half of the regular season if a long-term deal was not signed. However, there was no such declaration from the Bell camp after the deadline had passed.

Bell was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2017, when he led the NFL in regular-season carries with 321 while gaining 1,291 rushing yards. He also had 85 receptions for 655 yards.

He added 16 carries, 67 rushing yards, nine receptions and 88 receiving yards in the postseason.

Joyner did not come to terms on a contract extension with the Rams, so the fifth-year pro will play the 2018 season for $11.287 million under the franchise tag.

The 27-year-old Joyner earned $1.6 million last season in the final year of his rookie contract. He had three interceptions last season.

The Rams are still trying to work out a deal with star defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

Joyner has previously said he is comfortable playing the season under the franchise tag.

“I believe in letting the chips fall where they may,” Joyner said in March, according to USA Today. “When I was franchised, it was just like, ‘OK, so, now I have another opportunity to win a Super Bowl with this organization and also continue to see where they see me at as far as their future plans.’ That was my whole thought process on it.”

The Cowboys’ Lawrence will earn $17.143 million under the franchise tag after failing to reach a long-term extension with the team.

In his fourth NFL season in 2017, Lawrence, 26, had by far his best year, collecting 14.5 sacks and 58 total tackles while starting all 16 games. He could become a free agent after the 2018 season.

Ansah will also play under the franchise tag for the Lions in Matt Patricia’s first season as head coach.

Ansah, who had 12 sacks last season, will earn $17.1 million this season.

“That’s something when we were going through the process, Matt (Patricia) got on board and Ziggy was the No. 1 conversation,” Lions general manager Bob Quinn said on the Lions’ website earlier this offseason after deciding to use the team’s franchise tag on Ansah. “What are we going to do with Ziggy? I had my thoughts. It didn’t take long for me to show Matt why we should do what we did.”

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