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Le’Veon Bell threatens to sit out season, retire if Steelers use franchise tag on him again

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The season isn’t even over, but the war of words has begun.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Fooch’s update: Bell offered this on Twitter:

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a slightly important football game coming up this weekend, but the talk right now is about Le’Veon Bell’s future with the team. The running back told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that if the Steelers use the franchise tag on him for a second straight season, he will sit out the season, and consider retirement.

Specifically, Bell said, “I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I would definitely consider it.” He told Fowler he is less concerned about the money, and more concerned about setting a precedent for running backs.

Bell played on the franchise tag this year, earning $12.1 million. If he is tagged again, he will earn 120 percent of that salary, or $14.5 million. The Steelers will have to announce their franchise tag intentions between February 20 and March 6, assuming the two sides do not get a deal done before then.

I won’t say Bell is definitely not going to retire, but I’m skeptical he would actually call it a career. I could see him sitting out the start of the season, and returning after Week 11 to play enough games to accrue a season’s playing time. Steelers would then need to decide if he would be worth a third franchise tag. Maybe he really does just call it a career, but I think that ends up more likely.

The Steelers could decide he’s not worth the contract headache, but I’m equally skeptical they’d just renounce their rights and settle for a third round comp pick in 2019. The most likely compromise would be that they use the franchise tag and then trade him.