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Steelers put franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell again

Le'Veon Bell accounted for nearly 2,000 total yards and 11 touchdowns last season for the Steelers.File/AP

Le’Veon Bell keeps saying he wants to stay with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers keep saying they want to keep one of the NFL’s best running backs in the fold for years to come.

They have until July 16 to make it happen.

The Steelers placed the exclusive rights franchise tag on the two-time All-Pro for a second straight spring on Tuesday, putting Bell’s long-term status with the club up in the air.

Bell, a two-time All Pro, accounted for 1,946 total yards and 11 touchdowns for the AFC North champions in 2017. Both Bell and Steelers management said after the season they hoped to get a contract extension done quickly, but failed to do so by Tuesday’s deadline for teams to use the franchise tag.

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Bell is scheduled to make $14.54 million in 2018 if he signs the franchise tender and the two sides are unable to reach an agreement on a new deal. He skipped offseason workouts and training camp last summer before signing the tender on the eve of the regular season. The absence led to a sluggish start, though he was an indispensable part of Pittsburgh’s offense once again, breaking his own club record by catching 85 passes.

Bell turned down a long-term deal with the Steelers last summer and told ESPN in January he would consider retiring if the Steelers used the franchise tag on him again. He backtracked a bit during the Pro Bowl when he said he believed a new contract was in the works. It was a sentiment echoed by both Steelers president Art Rooney II and general manager Kevin Colbert early in the offseason.

Bell tweeted Monday that regardless of the circumstances he wants to remain with the Steelers.

‘‘Pittsburgh: the city that took in a 21-year old kid from small-town Ohio, the city I battled thru adversity in, the city that I became a man in,’’ Bell tweeted. ‘‘I love everything about being a Pittsburgh Steeler, and I want nothing more than to finish the rest of my career in Pitt!’’

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Also getting franchise tags before Tuesday’s deadline were Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry, Detroit defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, Dallas DE DeMarcus Lawrence, and Los Angeles Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner. They can talk with other teams, but their current team would get compensation if they leave.

The only player given the transition tag was Chicago cornerback Kyle Fuller. The transition tag allows the Bears to match any offer Fuller receives.

Redskins don’t tag Cousins

Kirk Cousins’s time with the Washington Redskins is all but over after they chose not to use the franchise tag on the quarterback as expected. The Redskins have agreed to acquire Alex Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs, effectively pushing Cousins into free agency following a tumultuous six years with the club the drafted him. There was a thought the team could place the franchise tag on Cousins again even after agreeing to trade for Smith and attempt to then trade Cousins. There was heavy risk with that move though as Cousins could file a grievance through the NFL players union if tagged. Cousins will be the top free agent available when the league year opens in mid-March and should have no shortage of suitors. Cousins, 29, is coming off his third consecutive 4,000-yard passing season. Smith, who will join the Redskins once the trade becomes official March 14, has agreed to a four-year extension with $71 million guaranteed. Cousins could easily command more than that on the open market with the New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, and Cleveland Browns among the teams interested in upgrading at quarterback . . . If Allen Robinson remains in Jacksonville, it won’t be as one of the highest-paid receivers in the league. The Jaguars declined to use the franchise or transition tag on Robinson, stirring questions about his future. NFL teams had until Tuesday afternoon to tag pending free agents, but Jacksonville executives told Robinson long before the deadline he would not be tagged. Had the Jags tagged Robinson, he could have signed a one-year, $15.982 million contract for 2018. Jacksonville and Robinson still have a week to reach a contract agreement; the team has exclusive negotiating rights with him until March 12. If no deal is reached by then, Robinson would become an unrestricted free agent on March 14.

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Hochuli, Triplette retiring

NFL referees Ed Hochuli and Jeff Triplette are retiring. One of the replacements will be former back judge Shawn Hochuli, Ed’s son. The other is former side judge Alex Kemp. The two new referees each joined the NFL in 2014. Ed Hochuli, among the most recognizable of NFL officials because of his muscular build, joined the league in 1990. Triplette came aboard in 1996. Hochuli worked two Super Bowls and generally was considered among the league’s best officials. Hochuli’s lengthy verbal descriptions of calls were befitting an attorney. Triplette, a restructuring consultant, became a ref in 1999. He was heavily criticized in the media — including by his former boss, Mike Pereira, now an analyst for Fox — for his crew’s work in January during the Titans-Chiefs playoff game . . . Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he won’t force his players to stand for the national anthem, even though he believes kneeling is a counterproductive way to promote social justice. Ross’s comments in a statement released by the Dolphins came after the New York Daily News reported that he said all of the team’s players will stand for the anthem in 2018. Ross was in New York on Monday to be honored by the Jackie Robinson Foundation and receive its ROBIE Lifetime Achievement Award. ‘‘I have no intention of forcing our players to stand during the anthem, and I regret that my comments have been misconstrued,’’ Ross said in his statement . . . The Carolina Panthers signed Pro Bowl kicker Graham Gano to a four-year contract extension. The deal is worth $17 million overall with $9 million guaranteed, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press. Gano, 30, is coming off his best NFL season, converting all 29 field goals from inside of 50 yards and 29 of 30 overall. He made 34 of 37 extra points. . . Running back Chris Ivory has agreed to sign a two-year contract with the Buffalo Bills, where the eighth-year player will have an opportunity to serve as LeSean McCoy’s primary backup. Ivory agreed to the deal two weeks after being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ivory finished with just 382 yards rushing and a touchdown and was inactive for four of the Jaguars’ final five games. He lasted just two seasons with Jacksonville after signing a five-year, $32 million contract . . . The Baltimore Ravens signed defensive end Brent Urban to a 1-year contract, less than two weeks before he was slated to become an unrestricted free agent. Urban’s four years with Baltimore have been marked by injuries. He’s played in just 25 games, and was healthy for an entire season only in 2016.

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