It is always difficult to know whether players' threats are just negotiating ploys, but Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell told ESPN.com that he is willing to sit out a season, and perhaps even retire, if the franchise tag is placed on him for the second year in a row.
"I hope it doesn't come to that, but I would definitely consider it," Bell said Thursday, according to ESPN.com.
The 25-year-old Bell was named to the first-team All-Pro squad this season, and he played on a $12.1 million franchise tag in 2017. That made him the NFL's highest-paid running back this season.
The franchise-tag figure is expected to increase to about $14.5 million for next season.
The Steelers offered Bell a long-term contract last year, but he rejected a contract that reportedly would have paid him $30 million in the first two years of the deal.
Teams can place a franchise tag on player from Feb. 20 to March 6. After that, a team would have until July 16 to negotiate a long-term contract with a player.
Bell wants the Steelers to value what he provides.
"Just get the numbers straight, exactly where we want them. I'm not going to settle for anything," Bell said. "I know what I do and what I bring to the table. I'm not going out here getting the ball 400 times if I'm not getting what I feel I'm valued at."
Bell has rushed for 1,291 yards on 321 attempts this season. He also has 85 receptions for 655 yards, and has scored 11 touchdowns.
"It will eventually come down to me playing on the tag or not," Bell said. "They tag me again, it will be me (saying), 'OK, do I want to play on the tag or do I not want to play on the tag?' That's what it comes down to. If I was a free agent and they let me go, be a free agent, then, yeah, I'm going to go explore free agency, test the market."
Bell says he wants to set a precedent for running backs.
"I've made a lot of money, I'm happy where I'm at, I've got a good family -- I don't really need to play football," said Bell. "Right now, I'm just kind of doing it because I love it. Now, I've done everything but own a Super Bowl ...
"I don't necessarily care about the money aspect of it. I just want to be valued where I'm at. If I am playing this game, I want to set standards for all the other running backs behind me, like Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, guys like that."