Le’Veon Bell turned down the opportunity to be the NFL’s highest-paid running back, because he feels he’s more than merely a running back.
The Pittsburgh Steelers star was reportedly offered a long-term deal worth $42 million over five years, one that would have earned him more money than the highest-paid players at his position, but opted instead to play the 2017 season on the $12.1-million franchise tag. That figure is higher than every other running back’s base salary for the year, but Bell’s in search of more.
“I feel I should be valued as a player, not so much my position,” Bell explained, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.
“I make plays in the passing game, blocking, doing everything. I’m arguably the top running back in the NFL and the No. 2 receiver on the Steelers, even though I play running back. Their career receiving total versus mine, they don’t have more yards than me.”
It isn’t a unique approach. In 2014, then-New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham requested to officially be declared a receiver in order to be paid like one. Under the franchise tag, a player is paid the average salary of the top five highest-paid players at the position. Receivers are paid more handsomely than tight ends.
Graham’s request was denied by an arbitrator, and it appears Bell is looking to take up a similar fight.
“Hopefully down the line I can get valued at, not as much a guy who gets the ball 30 carries and that’s it,” he said.
Bell did acknowledge that the contract he was offered by the Steelers before Monday’s deadline was one beyond his wildest dreams.
“More money than you’ve ever seen in your life, it’s hard to walk away from it,” he said. “At the same time, I’ve never had that amount of money for 25 years.”
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