The Pittsburgh Steelers running back would earn $12.1 million with the tag, and there's been little talk of the two parties coming to an agreement before the deadline, though Rapoport added that negotiations "are ongoing."
"(It's) too close to call right now on whether Bell will get that blockbuster long-term extension to keep him in Pittsburgh for a long time," Rapoport said, according to NFL.com's Kevin Patra.
"Whether or not he's going to have to go year by year on the franchise tag, this is a tough one because the tag is $12 million, far higher than any running back on the market makes right now. So Bell (is) already the highest-paid running back, (and he) would like to be the highest-paid running back on an extension. We'll see if they get a deal done by 4 p.m. (ET). No word yet on whether it's going to happen."
Bell's $12.1 million is well beyond the top average annual salary for a running back at $8 million per year, held by LeSean McCoy, so the Steelers will almost certainly have to give their star rusher a deal that far exceeds McCoy's.
After sitting out three games to start the 2016 season because of a suspension, Bell re-established himself as arguably the best running back in the league. He finished the year with 1,268 rushing yards and 616 receiving yards in 12 games and averaged 157 scrimmage yards per game - tops in the league by a considerable margin.