July 17th is getting uncomfortably close, and so far there's been little apparent movement on franchise-tagged running back Le'Veon Bell's contract extension. So what are the chances the Steelers don't get a new contract done before that mid-July deadline?
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that you should basically flip a coin:
"Both sides have motivations to get it done, but no deal in sight now. A push before and at deadline is expected from both sides.
"Could go either way"
That seems to be the prevailing feeling around these negotiations right now.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette addressed Bell's contract negotiations on Peter King's weekly podcast saying: "I think he'll have to play under the franchise tag."
"Where do you go from there, if you're him or them (with regard to his $12.12 million franchise tag)? How high do the numbers have to be for him to say, 'OK, I won't take this guaranteed $12.1 million, I'll sign this long term deal.' And then, if he has a great season, next year -- if he wants to do it -- it will be $14.5 million. There's 26, almost $27 million for two years. He wouldn't get that in a guaranteed contract, I wouldn't think.
"He's a great runner, he's a great receiver, but do you think anybody would hold out with a $12.1 million guarantee? I think the biggest issue with him right now is he became so integral into everything they did. If -- for some reason -- he doesn't show up, and they are in the middle of August, I just wonder whether somebody, whether Kevin Colbert or [Mike] Tomlin, are gonna go to Art Rooney II and say, 'Maybe we outta bite the bullet on this one and do it.' It's not a Steeler way, but boy, he became an awfully important person in their cause last year."
He's right, Bell put up 1,884 yards rushing and receiving in only 12 games across 2016. He's an important part of the Steelers offense, it could take two or three players to replace those numbers.
For his part, Bell has said that his concern is primarily security, which is absolutely justified for guy who does so much, and takes on so much risk, throughout a season.
"It's got it's pros and cons to it," Bell said of the franchise tag in a TMZ interview. "I get a lot of money for one year, but a player like me, especially at my position, you want to work towards that long-term deal. Make sure you have some security blanket to fall back on in case just something dramatic happens, which I pray don't happen, but you gotta prepare for the worst. Obviously, we're still gonna works towards (a new contract)."
Source: Adam Schefter - ESPN · Photo Credit: KEYSTONE PRESS