The Le’Veon Bell saga isn’t over just yet. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Pittsburgh Steelers are “still considering” placing the transition tag on Bell. From Schefter:
“Pittsburgh’s decision depends on how much another team would value Bell and whether the Steelers would be willing to match the offer sheet.”
During the regular season, Bell told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler the Steelers told Bell they would transition him should the two sides not hammer out a long-term deal. Bell skipped all of 2018 in response. As Schefter notes, the value of the tag would become murky.
“There also is a battle brewing between the NFL and and NFL Players Association over the value of what the transition tag would be on Bell if the Steelers did use it. Bell and the NFLPA will argue that the transition tag is close to $14.5 million based on the escalating value of tags, and the Steelers and the NFL will say it’s closer to $9.5 million because Bell sat out this past season.”
It’s difficult to see Pittsburgh being able to retain Bell should they transition him. Matching a contract seems unlikely for two big reasons. One, other teams are going to offer more, the Steelers have already given their best offer, and two, most organizations structure their deals differently than Pittsburgh, offering more guaranteed money.
If they ultimately tag and lose him, they’ll have wasted time and tied up money. They also won’t receive compensatory value like they would if they let him test free agency (where they can still compete to bring him back, by the way).
February 19th marks the first day teams can use the transition or franchise tag on players. The deadline to do so is March 5th at 4 PM. Should the Steelers go that route, it wouldn’t be the first time under Kevin Colbert they’ve transitioned a player. Max Starks and Jason Worilds received such a designation in 2008 and 2014, respectively. Click here for a full list of tagged players in franchise history.