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Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell will consider sitting out or retiring if franchise tagged again

Le'Veon Bell, Steelers

Prior to the start of the 2017 season, much was made of Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell’s contract situation.

The plot thickened when Bell decided to sit out the entire preseason before officially signing the $12.1 million franchise tag just ahead of the season opener. According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the 25-year-old told reporters Thursday that he will consider either sitting out the 2018 campaign or retiring altogether if tagged again.

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back told ESPN that he’s prepared to sit out a season, or even retire, if franchise tagged for the second consecutive year.

“I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I would definitely consider it,” he said before Thursday’s practice

Bell also indicated that if he does decide to sit out next season, it would all but seal his choice to walk away from the game after just five seasons in the league. This topic was tabled for much of the season given the team’s success and playoff push.

With the season winding down and free agency starting around three months from now, this issue has made its way back in the headlines. Bell reportedly turned down a two-year deal that was worth up to $30 million last year.

If the Steelers use the franchise tag once again, that number will jump to $14.5 million for next season. Teams are eligible to use that designation between Feb. 20 and March 6, and then they have until July 16th at 4 p.m. ET to hammer out a new long-term deal. This puts the front office in a potentially difficult position, as the franchise tag could be used as a base point for working toward a new contract.

Bell has a strong argument to garner a lucrative contract offer as he’s been arguably the best running back in the league over the last few seasons. He finished the 2017 regular season third in rushing yards with 1,291 while scoring nine touchdowns on the ground. He was also highly impactful as a receiver out of the backfield, leading all running backs with a career-high 85 catches for 655 receiving yards and two touchdowns.