If the Pittsburgh Steelers decide to place the transition tag on running back Le’Veon Bell, they will do so with the intention of trading him, according to a new report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac. Dulac writes:
“Ideally, the Steelers would find a team interested in Bell, place the transition tag on him, sign him and trade him to that interested team the same day. That way, they are guaranteed some form of compensation for the former All-Pro running back, whether a player or a draft choice.”
Dulac goes on to say the Steelers won’t have any intention of keeping Bell long-term, tied of the antics and offseason drama of “will he/won’t he” sign. The performance of James Conner and Jaylen Samules has created new comfort at the position, too, Conner looking capable of being the Steelers lead back in 2019.
The window for the tag opening up is February 19th with a March 5th deadline. Generally, the Steelers have placed the tag closer to the deadline. A transition tag will likely come with pushback from Bell’s camp and the union. Pittsburgh will argue the transition tag should be $9.5 million while Bell’s side will say it should be $14.5 million, last year’s franchise tag. That will only further complicate the situation.
Beyond that, the logic of a tag, sign, and trade seems difficult. The history of players being traded with the transition tag is very limited, perhaps unprecedented. Quarterback Matt Cassel was traded off the franchise tag a decade ago, but he didn’t receive a long-term year until months after getting dealt. Why would another team pay out the nose for Bell and want to trade draft picks for him when they can put in a “too rich” offer by the Steelers’ standards and tell Kevin Colbert, “we’re not trading for him.”
As we wrote yesterday, Over the Cap projected Bell to receive a four year, $60 million deal with $33 million guaranteed. Teams rumored to be interested include the Houston Texans, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins.
At the least, it would be a difficult process to pull off but if they can, preferable to compensatory value if the team lets him walk as a free agent. Bell’s situation will be one of many key storylines playing out over the next two months.