Although most reports have indicated the Pittsburgh Steelers will transition tag Le’Veon Bell, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler is going in the other direction, writing that he does not expect the team to tag Bell before free agency begins.
He was part of a large crowd in an ESPN article speculating about tag options. In his response, Fowler wrote:
“Bell can’t be traded unless he signs the tag or the Steelers utilize an offer sheet for a convoluted sign-and-trade plan, which is risky if other teams aren’t interested in the offer sheet’s numbers. Plus, the NFLPA would argue such a move violates the spirit of the tag and the collective bargaining agreement.”
Fowler concludes by writing: “The Steelers will not use any tag on Bell.”
It’s his own opinion but you have to feel that’s well-sourced to make an educated guess. And it’s hard to argue with that logic. Placing the transition tag on Bell with the sole intent to trade him brings up a host of grievances from the union, ranging from the ethics of such a move to what that tag is worth, since he was tagged (but sat out) last season.
Even getting beyond that mess, actually pulling off the trade probably isn’t worth it. To do so, the Steelers will have to match another team’s offer, signing him, and trading him would mean Pittsburgh would be on the hook for the signing bonus money, which you can expect to be sizable for a player of Bell’s caliber. It’s time, money, and energy that could be better spent on actual improvements to the 2019 roster and those players who will be apart of it.
Not tagging Bell will give the Steelers plenty of cap room to work with, a departure from most offseason when Kevin Colbert is searching for pennies under the couch cushions. It’d be a chance to make serious upgrades for a defense with more holes than a draft class could realistically fill.
The window to place the tag on Bell would begin Tuesday. The deadline to do so is March 5th so we’ll get our answer – and mercifully, an end to this saga – in roughly two weeks.