Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert stated Wednsday during a press conference that running back Le’Veon Bell will not be franchise or transition tagged in 2019 and will become an unrestricted free agent.
There has been rampant speculation the Steelers would use one of the tags hoping to generate a higher draft selection than they would garner as compensation if Bell was allowed to walk as an unrestricted free agent. There are several factors that go into the formula for a 2020 compensatory pick, but the speculation is Bell’s loss would net the team a third-round compensatory pick.
Two reasons Steelers GM Kevin Colbert says they won't tag Le'Veon Bell: The $14.5 M price tag and the work of James Conner and Jaylen Samuels at RB last season— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) February 20, 2019
Steelers are not tagging Le'Veon Bell, according to GM Kevin Colbert: "Le’Veon is still a great player. We can’t afford to use any other type of tags. Le’Veon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year."— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) February 20, 2019
The Steelers will not put any tag on Le’Veon Bell, according to GM Kevin Colbert. @TheAthleticPGH— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) February 20, 2019
Teams are wary about going down this road because of possible lawsuits by the NFLPA that such a move would violate the CBA because of the team not looking to use Bell, but rather to trade him.
The other issue is what Bell’s salary under the transition tag which is expected to be $14.5 million according to Mike Florio. Once the tag is applied it immediately counts against the Steelers salary cap. The Steelers have $19.4 under the NFL’s salary cap according to Over the Cap. (This includes the speculation that the NFL salary cap will rise by at least $10 million.)
Article 10, Section 15(a) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement provides as follows: “If any Franchise Player does not play in the NFL in a League Year, his Prior Team shall have the right to designate such player as a Franchise Player or a Transition Player the following League Year, if such designation is otherwise available to the Team, except that the applicable Tender must be made and any 120% Tender shall be measured from the Player’s Prior Year Salary.”
The Steelers could extend Bell an offer now, but he would wait until free agency to see what other teams offer. It would be the first time in his six-year career the three-time Pro Bowler tests the free agency waters and decides what he wants to get paid.
If Bell parts ways with the Steelers, he would finish fourth on the Steelers career rushing list with 5,336 rushing yards, 20th on the career receiving list with 2,660 yards and tenth with 42 total touchdowns.
The emergence on 2018 Pro Bowl running back James Conner and the productivity out of Jaylen Samuels helped make the decision by Colbert easier from a business and football aspect.
Now that this chapter appears to be closed, Steelers fans can focus their attention on the Antonio Brown saga.