The Pittsburgh Steelers were finally able to sign guard David DeCastro to a lucrative long term contract extension on Thursday and with that transaction the list of possibly players who could potentially be given the franchise or transition tag next offseason shrunk by one
In essence, the two Steelers players who are now currently scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the conclusion of the 2016 season that can legitimately be considered candidates for either the franchise or transition tag next offseason from the Steelers are running back Le’Veon Bell and linebacker Jarvis Jones with the former being the current leader in the clubhouse.
In order for Jones to overtake Bell, he will need to have a fantastic 2016 season and thus really show that he become a force as a pass rusher. In all honesty, I would bet against that happening and even if he does show some improvement in 2016, it probably still won’t be enough to warrant him receiving either the franchise or transition tag in 2017.
As for Bell, who will miss the first three games of the 2016 regular season due to a suspension, he really needs to return with a vengeance in Week 4 and show that he hasn’t missed a beat despite suffering a serious knee injury last year. If he’s able to do that, in addition to staying out of trouble with the league office, then he’ll be a prime candidate to receive the franchise tag in 2017 and potentially a long term contract extension prior to this same time next year.
Being forced to make a tough decision on Bell will certainly be a great problem for the Steelers to have. However, there will also be a few other players who will have their hands out in 2017 as well as wide receiver Antonio Brown and defensive end Stephon Tuitt will both be entering the final years of their current contracts.
Personally, I’m going to predict that Bell returns in 2016 to have a fantastic year with the end result being him being given the franchise tag in 2017. It makes too much sense for them not to do that as we sit here today if unable to get him locked up before the team boards an airplane bound for Washington on Sunday.