What exactly could the future hold for Le'Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Le'Veon Bell has still not reported to the Steelers to sign his franchise tender for the 2018 season.
The two-time All-Pro running back was set to make $14.5 million this season, but his decision to sit out the first nine weeks of the regular season have chipped away at how much he could actually make if he were to report to the team this season. He has lost $855,529 for very week he's missed so far.
Bell has until Tuesday, Nov. 13 to report to the team to be eligible to play this season. Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com reports that neither the Steelers nor the NFL is planning on making the franchise tender from this season carry over to next season, but Bell could miss out on benefits in relation to his pension and healthcare reimbursement that are connected to how many credited seasons a player has. He needs three games at full pay to have the season credited.
So if Pittsburgh decided to put the franchise tag on Bell again next offseason, it would be the third tag. If the Steelers did decide to go that route, it would be even more costly than normal. Instead of getting the average salary of the five highest paid running backs for next season, the team would pay him what a quarterback would make on the franchise tag if Pittsburgh offered Bell an exclusive franchise tender in 2019. According to NFL.com's Tom Pelissero that salary would be more than $25 million next season.
Another option for Pittsburgh if it wanted to place a third tag on Bell would be the transition tag. It's a non-exclusive deal worth the average of the top 10 salaries at a position. Similar to the non-exclusive tag, the transition tag would allow Bell to negotiate a deal with another team, but the Steelers would have the chance to match. A major key difference between the transition tag and the non-exclusive tag though is if Pittsburgh decided not to match a deal after putting Bell on the transition tag it would not get back any sort of compensation. If that situation were to happen and Bell was under the non-exclusive tag, the Steelers would receive two first-round picks for losing Bell.
Pelissero reports the NFLPA could potentially fight if the Steelers tried to use the transition tag in 2019, depending on the situation.
Bell has played five seasons with Pittsburgh since getting drafted by the organization in the second round in 2013 out of Michigan State. Without Bell, the Steelers have started their 2018 season 5-2-1 as replacement running back James Conner has racked up 706 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, which are both the second-highest totals in the league.