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NFL notebook: Steelers tag Bell again

Sports Xchange
07 Mar 2018, 10:16 GMT+10

The Pittsburgh Steelers placed the franchise tag on running back Le'Veon Bell for the second consecutive year.

The move, which was expected, was announced by the Steelers on Tuesday before the 4 p.m. ET deadline for teams to issue tags.

Should he sign the agreement, Bell would receive $14.544 million in 2018. Bell sat out offseason workouts a year ago before signing his franchise contract in 2017.

Bell, 26, was optimistic a long-term deal could be struck and the sides have until July 16 to do so. He told ESPN on Monday that the two sides were "not coming to a number we both agree on."

During Super Bowl week, Bell said that the contract talks "were all about the guarantees" and hinted that it would require more than $30 million guaranteed to get it done.

Bell has threatened to retire from football unless he gets a contract that tops the three-year, $42 million deal that he turned down last year.

The Los Angeles Rams placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on safety Lamarcus Joyner, the team announced.

The value of the tag for Joyner is $11.287 million for the 2018 season. The Rams have until 4 p.m. ET on July 16 to sign him to a multi-year contract or he will have to play the season on the franchise tag. The non-exclusive version of the franchise tag allows Joyner to negotiate and potentially sign a deal with another team in exchange for two first-round picks.

Fellow cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who had received the franchise tag the past two offseasons, will be an unrestricted free agent on March 14 when the new league year begins. Johnson's future with team is in doubt after it acquired Marcus Peters from the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this offseason.

The decision to tag Joyner also means that wide receiver Sammy Watkins is heading toward free agency, one year after he was acquired from the Buffalo Bills for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick.

--The Chicago Bears placed the transition tag on cornerback Kyle Fuller, the team announced.

The transition tag will pay Fuller $12.971 million for the 2018 season, as opposed to the $14.975 million he would have received under the franchise tag.

The transition designation is a one-year tender offer for an amount that is the average of the top 10 salaries at the position -- as opposed to the top five for the franchise tag. It also guarantees the original club the right of first refusal to match any offer the player might receive from another team.

Fuller recorded 67 tackles, two interceptions and 22 pass breakups this past season, one year after sitting out the entire 2016 campaign after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in the summer.

--Running back Chris Ivory has agreed to a two-year contract with the Buffalo Bills, the team announced.

Financial terms were not disclosed by the team, but NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the deal is worth $5.5 million in base salary, with $3.25 million guaranteed in the first year. It can be worth up to $6 million.

Ivory, who visited with the Bills and Cleveland Browns after being released last month by Jacksonville, is in line to be the primary backup to workhorse LeSean McCoy next season. Mike Tolbert, Taiwan Jones, and Travaris Cadet are all scheduled to be free agents.

Ivory recorded career highs in carries (247), rushing yards (1,070) and rushing touchdowns (seven) with the New York Jets in 2015, but failed to produce at that level with the Jaguars after signing a five-year, $32 million contract -- with $10 million guaranteed. He averaged less than 4 yards per carry during his two seasons with Jacksonville.

--The Carolina Panthers signed kicker Graham Gano to a four-year contract, the team announced.

Financial terms were not released by the Panthers for Gano, who earned his first Pro Bowl selection following the 2017 season.

Prior to the deal, Gano was set to hit free agency when the new league year started on March 14. Multiple outlets reported that the Panthers planned to apply the franchise tag on Gano had they been unable to reach a long-term deal prior to Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline.

Gano connected on 29 of 30 field-goal attempts to set a franchise record with an NFL-best 96.7 efficiency percentage. He also made 34 of 37 extra-point attempts.

--The New England Patriots are bringing back one player and letting another walk.

New England picked up the option on wide receiver Kenny Britt's contract, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. However, the Patriots won't pick up the contract option on defensive tackle Alan Branch, NESN reported.

Britt's one-year contract is worth $1.5 million with incentives that could add up to another $500,000. The Patriots freed up $3.55 million in salary cap space by cutting ties with Branch.

The Patriots signed Britt in mid-December, five days after he was released by the Cleveland Browns. He had just two receptions for 23 yards while playing in three games for New England in 2017.

--The Jacksonville Jaguars informed wide receiver Allen Robinson that they would not use the franchise or transition tag on him.

Robinson will become an unrestricted free agent if a long-term deal is not completed by 4 p.m. ET on March 14. The Jaguars have exclusive negotiating rights with Robinson until 4 p.m. ET on Monday.

The 24-year-old Robinson reportedly is on target with his recovery after tearing his ACL in his left knee on the third play from scrimmage in the Jaguars' season-opening 29-7 win over the Houston Texans.

Robinson recorded 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and a league-leading 14 touchdowns in 2015. He then led the Jaguars in catches (73), receiving yards (883) and receiving touchdowns (six) in 2016.

--Free-agent defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson will pay a visit to the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday, according to a published report.

The Packers are the first team Wilkerson will meet with after he was released by the New York Jets on Monday, the Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee reported.

Green Bay is a logical choice for Wilkerson. The Packers' new defensive coordinator is Mike Pettine, who served in the same capacity with the Jets during Wilkerson's first two seasons in 2011 and 2012.

Wilkerson was two years into a five-year contract extension he signed with New York in 2016 when he was cut following a turbulent season in 2017.

--Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert has declared himself healthy and ready to play at what he deems to be a dominant level.

Eifert made that proclamation to the Cincinnati Enquirer and said that "everything is fixed" after he played in just two games last season before a back issue sent him to injured reserve.

When asked if retirement had crept into his mind, Eifert offered the following: "No," the 27-year-old Eifert told the newspaper. "No. If I didn't think that I could get back to being a dominant player then, yeah, I probably would. But there's no question I can get back to where I've been."

Eifert has struggled to remain healthy since reeling in career-high totals in receptions (52), yards (615) and touchdowns (13) during 13 games in the 2015 season. A series of injuries and multiple surgeries have followed, including a concussion, a torn labrum and issues with his ankle, elbow, knee and back.

--Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he would not force his players' involvement during the national anthem, one day after declaring that "all of our players will be standing."

Ross told the New York Daily News on Monday that the players would stand as he visited the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, where he was honored by the Jackie Robinson Foundation with its ROBIE Lifetime Achievement Award.

On Tuesday, Ross said in a statement to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that he believes his comments were misconstrued.

"I have no intention of forcing our players to stand during the anthem and I regret that my comments have been misconstrued," the 77-year-old Ross said in a statement to the newspaper. "I've shared my opinion with all our players: I'm passionate about the cause of social justice and I feel that kneeling is an ineffective tactic that alienates more people than it enlists."

--The Washington Redskins made several moves, announcing they re-signed safety Deshazor Everett to a multiyear contract and waiving three other players.

The team waived tackle Kevin Bowen, running back Kenny Hilliard and running back Dare Ogunbowale.

Details of Everett's contract were not disclosed.

Everett started eight of the 14 games in which he played in 2017 and recorded five passes defensed and one forced fumble. He got his only career interception in 2016 when he played in 16 games for Washington but had no starts.

--The Baltimore Ravens signed defensive end Brent Urban to a one-year contract, the team announced.

Financial terms were not disclosed by the Ravens, but NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the contract is worth up to $2.35 million.

Urban, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent, collected four tackles in three games last season before a Lisfranc injury landed him on injured reserve.

NFL referees Ed Hochuli and Jeff Triplette have retired, the league announced.

Hochuli, who is known for his elaborate explanations and pronounced biceps, will serve as an independent consultant to the league. The NFL promoted his son, back judge Shawn Hochuli, to replace him.

The elder Hochuli, 67, joined the NFL in 1990 as a back judge and was promoted to referee in 1992. He also is a founding partner of Jones, Skelton Hochuli, a law firm in Phoenix.

Triplette's impending retirement had been reported in January. He became an NFL field judge in 1996 and was promoted to referee in 1999. He is remembered for accidentally injuring Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Orlando Brown's eye with a penalty flag in a game in 1999.

--Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek had a chance to go out on top, but he wants to play one more season.

Squashing any thoughts that he might retire after the Eagles won a Super Bowl championship in February, Celek told Philly.com that he plans to play a 12th season.

"Yeah I wanna play," Celek wrote in a text message to staff writer Jeff McLane.

The 33-year-old Celek, who is the backup to Zach Ertz, appeared in all 16 games last season but had only 13 receptions for 130 yards -- both career lows.

--Running back Matt Forte will sign a one-day contract to officially retire as a member of the Chicago Bears.

Forte made the statement on NBC Sports Chicago after declaring last week that he would retire after 10 NFL seasons.

A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Forte amassed 8,602 of his 9,796 career rushing yards with the Bears from 2008-2015. He also set a franchise record for receptions (102) by a running back in a single season in 2014.

--Ohio State center Billy Price, projected as a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, had surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle sustained during last week's NFL Scouting Combine, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported.

Price is rated the top center prospect in the draft and the No. 17 prospect overall by NFLDraftScout.com.

Whether the surgery will affect his draft status remains to be seen. Recovery time is estimated at four months, so he is expected to be able to participate in training camp for the team that selects him.

The 305-pound Price was injured during the weightlifting segment of the combine in Indianapolis.

--Former Oakland Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith was taken into custody by San Francisco police after turning himself in to authorities, multiple media outlets reported.

Smith was booked on charges related to domestic violence after an arrest warrant had been issued on Monday. The Raiders released Smith on Monday.

Smith is being held on $30,000 bond on misdemeanor charges of willful infliction of corporal injury, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, false imprisonment and vandalism of less than $400.

The warrant for Smith resulted from allegations that he assaulted a woman on Saturday night. When police arrived to respond to a 911 call, Smith was gone, leading police to issue an arrest warrant.

--New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson remains hospitalized but is showing signs of improvement, the team announced.

Benson, 90, is still in the Intensive Care Unit at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. He was admitted on Feb. 21 with flu-like symptoms.

"Mr. Benson remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Ochsner Medical Center. He remains in stable condition and has shown signs of improving," the team said in a statement. "Mrs. Benson once again thanks everyone for their continued support and prayers."

--Former NFL running back Tre Mason wants to resume his career after missing the past two seasons due to a litany of off-field issues.

Representatives of Mason, a former standout at Auburn who played his first two NFL seasons with the then-St. Louis Rams, have reached out to NFL teams, AL.com reported, citing sources.

The 24-year-old Mason's career went into a spiral following an arrest on five charges in March 2016. Per reports, police subsequently went to the Florida home of Mason's mother five times over the next four months.

Sources close to Mason told the newspaper that he is in a much better place mentally and wants to get back to playing football.

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