The Steelers were set to give Bell a contract worth $47 million over three years in July, Pro Football Talk reported, citing a league source.
During the time leading up to the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign a long-term deal, Bell reportedly rejected a five-year, $70 million contract. The NFL Network reported at the time that a $10 million signing bonus was the only portion of the deal that was fully guaranteed.
However, Pro Football Talk reported that under the three-year proposal, Bell would receive a $10 million signing bonus and a $10 million roster bonus. The second bonus would not apply only if Pittsburgh cut Bell days after signing him.
Instead, Bell has stayed away from the team and refused to sign his $14.54 million franchise tender. ESPN reported that Bell plans to return to the team between Weeks 7 and 8.
“It (stinks) having to sit out football,” Bell told ESPN. “I want to play. I want to win games and the playoffs. But I’ve gotta take this stand. Knowing my worth and knowing I can tear a ligament or get surgery at any time, I knew I couldn’t play 16 games with 400 or more touches.”
Pittsburgh has been exploring trading options for Bell and has been asking a steep price, notably at least a second-round draft pick in addition to another a “good” player, according to the NFL Network.
However Bell cannot be traded without signing his franchise tender. The Steelers are off to a 1-2-1 start without their star running back.
James Conner, the replacement for Bell, had a monstrous season debut with 135 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 31 carries in a season-opening 21-21 tie at Cleveland. However, Conner was limited to 97 yards rushing on 32 carries in his next three games.