Report: Le’Veon Bell may not show up in 2018 after learning new info
The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement is a complicated animal, and apparently even Le’Veon Bell is still learning the ins and outs of it. According to one report, a new piece of information the star running back learned about his own situation this week has him contemplating not reporting to the Pittsburgh Steelers at all in 2018.
A source told Mark Kaboly of The Athletic that Bell is not a lock to sign his franchise tender prior to the Nov. 13 deadline after he learned that it would still be considered the third time the Steelers use the franchise tag on him if they choose to go that route again this offseason. Teams can use the franchise tag on players up to three times, and it has been widely reported that this year will only count as one of those three if Bell reports and signs the tender.
If he doesn’t report, Steelers could Tag again in 2019 again as 2nd Tag, not 3rd Tag. https://t.co/rBOAZkABHX
— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) November 5, 2018
Pro Football Talk has been reporting that the Steelers could franchise tag Bell again this offseason for the second time if he doesn’t report by Nov. 13 at the same salary number of around $14.5 million, as the 2018 franchise tag would not count as one of the three the team can use on Bell. That makes sense and would seemingly be the player’s only incentive to show up, but there is now some disagreement about whether that is actually the case.
According to Kaboly’s source, a franchise tag for Bell this offseason would be considered the third whether the running back reports by the Nov. 13 deadline or not. The salary of the third franchise tag is determined by the average of the top five highest-paid players in the NFL (not just top five running backs), which would be around $25 million for 2019. That is why teams never franchise tag a player for a third consecutive year.
Apparently Bell was previously unaware that he could not report in 2018 and still have the franchise tag count as his second tag out of three. The Steelers aren’t going to pay him $25 million, which means their only option in 2019 would be using the transition tag. That gives Bell the ability to negotiate with other teams and the Steelers the right to match, which would essentially be the same as him hitting the free agent market.
Kaboly’s report goes on to say that Bell was hinting at a return to Pittsburgh with his cryptic tweet earlier this week, but he learned he has more leverage than he initially thought. Of course, it’s also possible that the language in the CBA is not clear enough for this specific situation, which could result in a legal battle between Bell and the Steelers. Stay tuned.