When franchise player Le'Veon Bell failed to reach agreement on a new contract with Pittsburgh early this week, he emphasized that he's "worth more" than the Steelers were offering.
Just how much more?
Ike Taylor, a former teammate of Bell, reported on Wednesday's edition of NFL Total Access that the All-Pro playmaker wants to be compensated not only as a top running back but also as a No. 2 receiver.
While it's understandable that one-dimensional power backs have been devalued in the NFL's heaviest passing era, Bell and Arizona's David Johnson raise an interesting conundrum as dual-threat superstars.
How valuable was Bell in 2016? As Pittsburgh's bell cow and second-leading receiver (75 catches), he became the first player in NFL history to average at least 100 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards per game over the course of a season. He led the league in both touches (28.0) and yards from scrimmage (157.0) per game, unseating franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the focal point of the offense during the Steelers' nine-game winning streak down the stretch.
Already the league's highest-paid tailback under the $12.1 million franchise-tag figure, Bell is seeking a higher annual salary in addition to guaranteed money that goes beyond Pittsburgh's general policy of a one-year limit.
"Le'Veon has the power right now with that $12 million," Taylor offered, explaining Bell's thought process. "For only one position. And when you add more value to that running back, just give me $3 [million] more. Put it at $15 [million]. Give me three [million] more."
Landing a contract worth $15 million per year would certainly satisfy Bell's desire to revive a depressed market for running backs.
"The running back market definitely took a hit, and I can't be the guy who continues to let it take a hit," Bell told ESPN early this week. "We do everything: We block, we run, we catch the ball. Our value isn't where it needs to be. I'm taking it upon myself to open up some eyes and show the position is more valuable."
Bell's quest has hit an obvious snag, however. Now that the July 17 deadline has passed, he will have to wait until after the 2017 season to sign a lucrative long-term contract.
Minus that mega deal, Taylor echoed NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport's persistent reporting that Bell will consider withholding his services for training camp -- as Chiefs safety Eric Berry did last summer.
"It's a strong possibility," Taylor stressed, "he might hold out."