According to a couple of reports yesterday afternoon, running back Le’Veon Bell is not expected to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers by the 4PM deadline this Tuesday, which would render him ineligible to play at all in 2018, effectively finalizing the reality of his decision to skip an entire season, and $14.55 million, in order to protect his body for free agency.
This shouldn’t by any means come as a surprise at this point, if not simply for the fact that we have already gone through so many twists and turns that seemingly everything has been in play at every step of the way.
But the interesting thing is how this might affect rest of the league. Bell, having been scheduled to play under a second franchise tag in 2018 after already doing so a year ago, is apparently choosing to sit out after seemingly being assured that a third tag is virtually not an option, since it would (again, based on popular interpretation) have to come at the quarterback franchise tag level, making it prohibitively expensive.
In other words, he is guaranteeing himself an opportunity to hit free agency without the risk of playing through an entire season by passing up his franchise tender this year. And according to Mike Garafolo, agents and interested players around the league are watching.
From @gmfb today, agents with clients facing the franchise tag have taken note of Le’Veon Bell’s recently discovered loophole and plan to at least use the threat of it to their advantage. pic.twitter.com/XBt5WJtL8I
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) November 11, 2018
“I doubled back with some agents this week who either have guys approaching the franchise tag or approaching a second franchise tag”, asking them if they knew the circumstances surrounding a third tag.
He said that many of them admitted that they were not aware, but that they would have researched the relevant information if they had a client under those circumstances. Now they have a case study in Bell.
“Now going forward, if you’re a player who is going to be a multiple-franchise tag guy (and again, quarterbacks are excluded), you now know that this loophole is available to you”, Garafolo went on, who also admitted that ‘loophole’ might not have been the best choice of words.
“So now you say to a team, even if it’s only a bluff, ‘okay, we’re going to play out the first franchise tag, and then we’re going to sit out the next one, so you better give us a long-term deal, because now we know because of Le’Veon Bell there’s an escape hatch to avoid the franchise tag”.
Of course, that escape hatch also drops you through an entire year’s worth of play and salary, and that is a huge risk in and of itself. But so is playing through an entire season, especially as a running back, without multiple-year security.
Whether or not people were actually aware of how the multiple-franchise tag scenario works, the point is now that they are going to have a model to go off of to see how it can play out, so it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Bell’s decision influences the decisions of players and agents down the road. So he may end up ‘resetting the market’ in that sense, as he wanted to.