Colin Cowherd reacts to the Steelers franchise tagging LeVeon Bell

– Cowherd, should Pittsburgh commit long-term to Le’Veon Bell?

– No. The franchise tag is the engagement ring of sports. I like you a lot, but I’m not quite ready. And let’s spend a year and just see how it works out. There’s usually a concern, OK? You can go to [SPANISH], go to Mexico, get married over the weekend. The engagement ring is a little bit of a safety thing.

With Kirk Cousins, the engagement ring was, listen, we like you, but what happens if DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon leave? They did, and he wasn’t the same quarterback. With Le’Veon Bell, it’s you’ve been suspended twice, hurt. We’d like you, but last time we gave you the franchise tag, you showed some immaturity, you held out for camp and came in rusty.

The franchise tag is what fans should love. Fans shouldn’t root for players to become billionaires, fans should root for teams to have some flexibility while keeping the best players. And those players, like Kirk Cousins or Le’Veon, who you love, but you got a concern, you keep at bay and increase your flexibility.

– I like how nice you’re being. Concern. This is a guy who’s been suspended twice for substance abuse, OK? And you’re looking at the Steelers situation, Colin, and in 66 games since they’ve drafted Le’Veon Bell, they averaged 25 points a game. In the 21 games without him, shockingly, 25 points per game.

As we’ve said before on this show, running backs and wide receivers are good and great. Eric, we love running backs. But at the same time, they are extra. You can win without them. You get a system going, you’re fine. I think Mike Tomlin and the Steelers are sending a message here. Hey, man, this is a guy, Le’Veon, but we love him. He showed up at the tail end of the walkthrough before the Jacksonville Jaguars playoff game.

– That’s true.

– This is the day before the playoff game, and he just shows up at the end of the walkthrough.

– I think that hurt him.

– That is immaturity. And I think Pittsburgh is saying to the locker room– Ray Lewis said it on this show last week. Hey, man, they’ve got to button things up in Pittsburgh. And it starts with a franchise tag, Eric.

– Well, I think when you look at Le’Veon Bell, if he carries the ball 25 times or more, they win the football games. That’s a big plus. When you take a running back or a guy that’s important to your football team away from that football team, they’re not the same football team. You can say– you can plug a guy in that offense and play running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he’s not going to be Le’Veon Bell because, all of a sudden, the offensive line, they don’t know how to block for this guy.

It takes a while to get used– you see how Le’Veon runs the ball. He’s a guy that kind of takes his time. And the offensive line, they’re used to that. When I played with the Rams, Jackie Slater and them, they knew how I ran the football. I would tell them, look, give me a split second. You don’t have to block him long. Just get me to the line of scrimmage. That’s all I need.

You know the guy. I know the guy who could pull the best. I knew the guy who was good at the point of attack. He knows me. So if you take Le’Veon Bell away from this offense, away from this football team, they’re not going to even be close because you know what? He’s a guy that can play every down.

You don’t have to change up your game like and say, OK, we’re gonna bring in number 31, OK. Number 31 is in. It’s gotta be a pass play. Well, Le’Veon Bell’s that guy. We can bring in 44. It’s gonna be, oh, we don’t think, we’re going to blitz, he’s gonna block. Le’Veon Bell’s that guy.

– So Eric, you’re saying they should commit to him.

– Most definitely.

– Are you saying they commit to Le’Veon?

– Most definitely they commit to– I think the Steelers are not going to overpay. They’re not that football team. They’re not going to overpay. But you’re going to have to make the offer. And listen, don’t get me wrong, this is a good offer. I’m not saying– but you have to give him a long-term deal. And the long-term deal I think for the NFL players is they want that guaranteed money. They want that 25, $30 million signing bonus. That’s the guaranteed money.

– And the Steelers feel the same way as Eric. I mean, they’re offering him a long-term deal. He’s just not accepting it. I think they’re around 13 or $14 million a year.

– –year, yeah, 55.

– I would offer him long-term at the right price. I wouldn’t go 15. I mean, it’s only a million or two difference per year, but look, the highest paid running back outside of him is 8.2 million, Devonta Freeman. I think they did the right thing. I think you try to sign him long-term also because, remember, if you sign him long-term, you can cut that cap number, like, in half this year, and then you can go out and use that money to get some defensive players. They need to shore up their defense.

So that’s my number one goal. If I can’t do that, I franchise him. And look, I know he’d be upset, but is he gonna walk away from 14 and a half million?

– Uh, no.

– This is a very star-dependent team. Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell. And by the way, JuJu Smith-Schuster, in about two years, he’s the best young receiver in football. I think the Steelers are also saying, listen, we’re not getting rid of Ben. Antonio Brown some believe– they’re not wrong– may be the best receiver we’ve ever seen. It looks like JuJu Smith-Schuster is a franchise guy. Part of this is like, what guy gets hurt more? Running back. Some of it’s just Le’Veon plays a position which you take more hits.

– And look, he only averaged four yards a carry last year. That’s almost a yard drop from the year before. He had three Pro Bowlers on that offense line. So I’m not saying he’s not great. You say– he can do it all. He’s probably the most versatile back in the league, for sure. But I wonder, is that four-yard– is that drop a sign of things to come, or was it just an aberration?

– It’s a great point about the offensive line. Pro Football Focus has they made top five offensive line in the league. And Eric, I don’t want to be Mr. Negative on Le’Veon Bell. Last three years, they were 11 and four with him out of the lineup. Remember, DeAngelo Williams came in 2015. Four 100-yard games when he replaced Le’Veon Bell. I know he’s a very good player, three down back. You can win without him.

– One of the things that’s great about football is players are engaged because they have to be or they’re no longer playing for the team. A baseball player, Robinson Cano is 10 years in. I mean, you know, that’s why I would never give– I’ve– you told bosses, I don’t want a 10-year contract. I’d get lazy. The reality in the NBA, you’re stuck with Blake Griffin now in Detroit for years.

The NFL, listen, it’s not like they’re paying them minimum wage and cutting them. They’re giving you 26 million over two years. Play, don’t get hurt, don’t get suspended, we’ll consider extending that.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

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