The resolution to The Le’Veon Bell Situation™ is a simple one, right? Just don’t do anything. Let the former All-Pro running back walk in free agency and wait to claim your compensatory draft pick in 2020, which could be worth as high as the 97th-overall pick (which they have gotten before…and used to draft Dri Archer).
But recent reports suggest that the Pittsburgh Steelers are considering the idea of applying the transition tag on Bell, and this must be credited because it is a possibility that president Art Rooney II did not dismiss during his several appearances making the media rounds this offseason.
According to the latest reports, however, the Steelers’ plans for using the transition tag would not be about retaining him, but rather as a means of facilitating a trade, which would have the advantage of not only raising the maximum compensation they could get to higher than the 97th pick, but also allow them to accrue that compensation earlier than 2020.
But there are so many problems with this, starting with the possibility that Bell and his camp could contend that this plan to tag him only to trade him violates the Collective Bargaining Agreement. He and his agent, Adisa Bakari, could call upon the NFLPA to get involved.
And they would surely already be involved because the Steelers would no doubt argue that they can tag him at a value below $10 million due to the fact that Bell did not play last season, and how that decision impacted his tag figure. Bell will argue that he should receive the value of his previous franchise tag value.
So we have at least two issues that could tie things up, first the value of the tag itself, and second whether or not the tag-and-sign-and-trade scenario that would follow is even permissible. All of this could delay matters and even affect their and Bell’s ability to hit the initial market.
I’m having a hard time selling myself on the idea that putting the transition tag on him is a good idea simply because of the many complications that could arise from doing so, including those that are not already being foreseen. The Steelers would have to win multiple battles just to get their way.
Now, is there a possibility that things could all work as planned and the Steelers could net a decent little haul for the 2019 NFL Draft in exchange for Bell, which would obviously be the ideal scenario? Of course it would be. But I don’t think that would be the most likely resolution to the situation, and might be more trouble than it’s worth. Hopefully if they actually decide to do this it’s because they’ve already worked out all the complications.