Pittsburgh Steelers assigned an exclusive franchise tag to Le'Veon Bell on Monday.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said a fortnight ago that he wants Bell to retire as a member of the Steelers.
Pittsburgh did not want to allow the All-Pro running back to hit the free-agent market next week and have now applied the franchise tag.
"The tag is always an option, and it’s something we’ll use if necessary," Colbert said two weeks ago.
"This thing is very fluid. It changes daily, once you start into talks with players and start to see how it’s all going to fit. We know that’s an option."
The Steelers had until Wednesday to make the decision, but got it out of the way early. Negotiations on a long-term deal are expected to continue and terms could be agreed upon before the start of the 2017 season.
If he plays under the franchise tag this year, Bell will make just over $12.7 million. The deadline for the sides to come to a long-term contract is July 15.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will be the highest-paid running back this year at $14million.
Bell was a second-round pick of the Steelers in 2013 and has rushed for 4,045 yards and 26 touchdowns despite missing 14 games because of injuries and suspensions.
"He is a guy that has got some talent, but equally or more important than that he has a desire to be great and a work ethic to boot," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement on Monday. "He is a much better conditioned athlete today than he was in 2014. I mean it when I say all areas."