NFL: Steelers retain Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, left, and running back Le'Veon Bell celebrate on the sideline after a Steelers touchdown during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Browns on Jan. 1.
(Jared Wickerham / Associated Press)

The Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday signed wide receiver Antonio Brown to a new five-year contract and placed an exclusive-rights franchise tag on running back Le’Veon Bell, taking steps toward fulfilling a promise to make the star players vital parts of the organization “for life.”

Brown’s new contract runs through 2021 and will pay him more than $72 million, making him one of the highest-paid non-quarterbacks in the league. Brown, 28, is one of only two players in NFL history to catch at least 100 passes in four consecutive seasons, last year catching 106 for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns in helping the Steelers win the AFC North title and make it all the way to the AFC championship game before falling to the New England Patriots.

Bell, who could have become a free agent next month, will work with the Steelers on a long-term agreement before the July 15 cutoff. If the club can’t sign him to a new deal by that date, he will make the average salary of the top five running backs in the league in 2017.


Bell, 25, led the NFL in average yards from scrimmage last season and was the first player in NFL history to average at least 100 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving per game.


The Arizona Cardinals, in an anticipated move, placed a nonexclusive franchise tag on Chandler Jones after failing to reach a long-term deal with the outside linebacker. The nonexclusive tag allows the Cardinals to continue negotiating with Jones through July 15. If another team makes him an offer, Arizona can either match it or receive two first-round draft picks. ...

The Carolina Panthers applied the nonexclusive franchise tag on defensive tackle Kawann Short and re-signed defensive end Wes Horton to a two-year contract. ...

The New York Giants have told defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul that he will be made a franchise player, a person with knowledge of the details told the Associated Press. ...

The Kansas City Chiefs are finalizing a five-year, $41.25-million contract extension for guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the Kansas City Star reported. ...

The Cleveland Browns released wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, who caught 33 passes for 324 yards last season.