Separating Fact From Fiction: Where Things Stand Currently With Le’Veon Bell, Steelers

Thanks to Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell not reporting this week to sign his franchise tag tender, there have been quite a few discussions related to what this now means moving forward not only for him but the organization as well and especially when it comes to choices both sides can make. Unfortunately, there is currently a lot of misinformation floating around about Steelers and Bell’s current circumstances and not surprisingly, a lot of it is coming from major media outlets and their respective reporters. This has created quite a bit of confusion for Steelers fans.

To better educate Steelers fans, below are some short, popular questions related to Bell and his status with the Steelers that I have answered. However, before posting several of these questions and answers, I had a 20-minute interview Wednesday night with former sports agent Joel Corry, who now writes for CBS Sports. I went over a lot of these same questions below with Corry to make sure I had the correct answers.

My full interview with Corry can be heard during the Friday edition of The Terrible Podcast, so be on the lookout for that because you won’t want to miss it.

How long can Bell sit out this season?

If he so chooses, Bell can sit out the entire season and in doing so he wouldn’t earn any money. However, if he wants to play at all this season, he needs to report to the Steelers and sign his tender by the Tuesday afternoon after Week 10’s games, which is November 13 this season. If still unsigned by then, Bell can’t play at all the remainder of the season.

What happens if Bell chooses to sit out the entire season?

The Steelers could theoretically place the franchise tag on Bell again in 2019 and for the same $14.544 million amount as 2018. Bell does not need an accrued season in 2018 because he already has enough of them to qualify to be an unrestricted free agent again in 2019. If Bell signs his tag prior to this year’s deadline (see above), however, a third consecutive franchise tag on Bell from the Steelers in 2019 would be the quarterback tag amount, which will be well over $22 million.

How much does Bell lose every week if he remains unsigned and how does that affect the Steelers 2018 salary cap?

Bell’s $14.544 million franchise tag tender has been counting against the Steelers salary cap ever since he was given the designation back in February. Every game he misses while unsigned results in Bell losing 1/17th of that total amount, which is $855,529. The Steelers will get salary cap relief in that amount every week that Bell remains unsigned.

Can the Steelers trade Bell if they so desire?

Technically, yes, but only after Bell signs his franchise tag and that assumes he doesn’t insist on having a no trade clause or right of first refusal to a trade clause written into his one-year contract before he signs it. Remember, the amount of Bell’s franchise tender this year is $14.544 million but other details associated with that one-year contract can still be negotiated before he signs it and if they really wanted to, the Steelers can pay Bell more than the $14.544 million. While a trade of Bell is theoretically possible, a team trading for him, like the Steelers, would not be able to sign the running back to a long-term extension until AFTER the 2018 season is over. In short, a team trading for Bell would run the risk of the running back only being a rental player in 2018 and then riding off to the highest bidder as an unrestricted free agent in March.

Can the Steelers rescind the franchise tag and just let Bell walk off?

Technically, yes, but in doing so, not only would the Steelers be setting a bad precedent for future negotiations with players who have been given the franchise tag, the team also would lose out on any potential compensatory draft pick value for Bell as well. Keeping Bell in 2018 and letting him leave via free agency in 2019 could result in the Steelers receiving a third-round compensatory pick value.

Will Bell get paid if he reports and signs franchise tag and is placed on the roster exempt list for two weeks?

When and if Bell finally does report to the Steelers and signs his franchise tag tender this season, the Steelers will undoubtedly ask for and receive a two-week roster exemption for him. However, prior to Bell even signing his one-year deal, you can bet the amount the running back will earn should he stay on the roster exempt list will be negotiated into the contract. There is no way that Bell’s agent will let his client sign a franchise tag tender that includes his client not getting paid his full $855,529 for every week he is on the exempt list.

Do I have a prediction for when Bell will report and sign his franchise tag?

My Steelers crystal ball has been on the fritz as of late, but with that said, I just don’t see Bell sitting out the entire 2018 season. In short, I predict he’ll report and sign his franchise tag tender by November 13. That’s the best I can do right now as far as any kind of prediction with Bell goes as I really thought he was going to show up by Wednesday morning at the latest.

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