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The team's decision to go with the exclusive tag means he cannot negotiate with any other team. According to Profootballtalk.com, the franchise tender for Bell should come in at somewhere over $12.3 million.
With the designation, Bell receives a one-year tender for an amount that is the average of the salaries of the five highest-paid running backs in the league. The Steelers had until March 1 to place the tag on Bell, and he would have become an unrestricted free agent on March 9 if something wasn’t done.
Both Steelers President Art Rooney II and General Manager Kevin Colbert have expressed an interest in doing a long-term deal with Bell, and this gives the two sides time to work out a deal. The deadline for the sides to come to a long-term contract is July 15. If a long-term contract is not worked out by that deadline, Bell would have to play the 2017 season at the amount determined by the franchise player designation.
Bell, the Steelers second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, has carried the ground game since his arrival in Pittsburgh, smashing records along the way. In his four seasons Bell has rushed for 4,045 yards, with 26 touchdowns, and has caught 227 passes for 2,005 yards and five touchdowns.
Bell finished the 2016 regular season with 261 carries for 1,268 yards, a 4.9-yard average, and seven touchdowns. He also had 75 receptions for 616 yards, and 8.2-yard average, and two touchdowns. Bell was also selected to the Pro Bowl this year and won Steelers MVP honors.
Bell was voted the Steelers’ MVP by his teammates for his performance this year, which also included a strong stretch run -- a run that was clearly beneficial to fantasy owners.
Bell was named the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for December/January, despite only playing in four of the five possible games. He rushed for an NFL leading 569 yards during the span and rushed for four touchdowns. He had 18 receptions for 179 yards, a 9.9-yard average, and one touchdown reception.
Bell had 748 total yards from scrimmage, which also led the NFL, averaging 5.8 yards every time he touched the ball and a league-leading 187.0 yards from scrimmage per game during the time.
Bell set a Steelers’ single-game record when he rushed for 236 yards on a career-high 38 carries in the 27-20 win over the Bills. Bell also had the hat trick, scoring three touchdowns for the first time in his career, and tying a team record with the three rushing scores. Bell added four receptions for 62 yards, for a total of 298 yards from scrimmage, ranking second in team history in yards from scrimmage in a single game. Bell single-handedly outgained the Bills with his 298 yards from scrimmage, compared to the Bills 275 yards of total offense.
Although he missed most of the team's AFC Championship loss to the Patriots due to a groin injury, Bell has apparently avoided surgery. Not having to go under the knife is a boon for all involved.
Meanwhile, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport's reported earlier in the day that Pittsburgh is making "significant progress" toward a long-term deal Antonio Brown. By tagging Bell, the Steelers can focus on getting Brown's deal done before the start of the new league year on March 9. After that's done, team brass can turn back to Bell's contract.