As of Saturday morning, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has still not signed his franchise tag tender after passing a team physical on Friday, according to Ian Rapoport. Now, this isn’t a big deal as he’s going to sign it but with that said, it brings up an interesting scenario and one I’m not sure is even allowed.
If you think about it, until Bell signs his tender, he’s technically not under contract and thus shouldn’t be considered on the roster. In short, it makes you wonder if the Steelers can cut down to 53 other players plus Bell on Saturday. If that’s allowed, it would give the Steelers a chance to perhaps hold on to a player they dont want to cut while also possibly getting cornerback Cameron Sutton to the Reserve/Injured list so he can qualify to be designated to return later on in the season.
That’s just one scenario that comes to mind and you can probably easily come up with a few more on your own. Regardless, it makes you wonder if Bell will be used as a No. 54 roster player on Saturday. If such a tactic is even allowed, it’s genius. It sounds like something Bill Belichick would do.
I did some quick research and back in 2002, Seattle Seahawks tackle Walter Jones didn’t sign his franchise tag tender until a few weeks into the regular season. The Seahawks, however, had 53 other players on their roster for their Week 1 game that season against the Oakland Raiders.
Now, here is something that Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote a few days ago concerning Bell and why he was reporting to the team on Friday and I’m not sure how this might play into the 54th player theory.
If Bell doesn’t report after the final roster cuts to 53 on Saturday, the Steelers could place him on the roster exempt list for up to two weeks of the regular season. Per the CBA, the Steelers and Bell would be required to agree in writing as to the compensation he would be paid while on roster-exempt status. This means that the Steelers could pay Bell him less than his $711,000 game check for the first two weeks of the season, based on his $12.1 million franchise tender.
So, will the Steelers need to place Bell on a roster exempt list later today if they want to play him like a 54th player only to have him removed from it in a few days when he finally finds a pen to sign his tender (wink, wink)? I’m not sure.
Look, I really dont know if this is a loophole the Steelers are trying to use or not and for all we know, Bell might have signed his tender while I was writing this post. Regardless, it will be fun to watch what happens the rest of the afternoon and see if the Steelers ultimately cut down to 53 players plus Bell. We might learn something today and that’s never a bad thing.