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Le'Veon Bell Rumors: 'Real Possibility' Steelers RB Won't Report by Deadline

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2018

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) plays in an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Le'Veon Bell may not return to the Pittsburgh Steelers this season after all.

According to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, there is a "real possibility" that Bell won't sign his franchise tender and will sit the entire 2018 campaign:

"A source confirmed to The Athletic that Bell is now contemplating whether or not he will show up by the Nov. 13 franchise tag deadline based on newly learned information from the collective bargaining agreement that would allow him to be deemed as a third-year franchise player in 2019 rather than to revert to the second year, even if he doesn't report."

Mark Kaboly @MarkKaboly

▪️Le'Veon Bell is FA in '19 regardless if he shows. Has enough accrued seasons to be FA in '19 even though he won't get one this year. ▪️Will be on 3rd franchise tag next year of top 5 highest paid ($25M+) even if he doesn't show b/c he's been tagged twice before @TheAthleticPGH

If Bell is designated on a third-year franchise tag, it would sit at around $25 million, one of the highest contracts in the NFL. As Kaboly noted, the Steelers wouldn't tag him at such an enormous number, in essence making him a free agent. 

In other words, Bell reportedly doesn't have to show at all this year to get the outcome he desires. 

The Steelers could use the transition tag on him, which would be worth less than the exclusive franchise tag they used this season. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, it would be worth around $9-10 million and allow the team to match any offer to Bell. 

Still, Bell would be free to test the market under the transition tag, and even if the Steelers matched any external offers, the veteran running back could sign the long-term deal he's desired. The only way the $9-10 million transition tag would come into effect would be if Bell couldn't come to terms on a long-term deal with a single team. It seems unlikely, however. 

Whether those offers would be in the monetary range he's seeking remains to be seen. But Bell has been one of the most potent offensive weapons in football since 2013, rushing for 5,336 yards and 35 touchdowns in his five seasons while adding 312 receptions for 2,660 yards and another seven scores. 

Plenty of teams will crave an all-around weapon on offense like Bell. The Steelers, meanwhile, can afford to see him go, with James Conner proving to be a more-than-adequate replacement this season (1,085 yards from scrimmage, 10 total touchdowns).

It's yet another twist in an ongoing saga and one that likely won't be resolved until this postseason. Wednesday's news makes it all the more likely that Bell won't play a snap of football this year.

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