The Le’Veon Bell saga might not done unraveling in Pittsburgh.
Just hours before Super Bowl LIII kicked off, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Pittsburgh Steelers are still considering using the transition tag on running back Le’Veon Bell.
Bell, who skipped the entire 2018 season to preserve himself in preparation for free agency, was originally tagged in 2017 and this past season in hopes of agreeing to a long-term deal. However, the Steelers were unwilling to give the guaranteed amount of money Bell had hoped for ($60 million was the rumored report) despite offering him deals that would have made Bell by far the highest back in the league.
When Bell failed to appear at the team facility in time to be eligible to play during the 2018 season, all bridges appeared to be burned between Bell and the Steelers.
Yet the desire for Bell to stay in Pittsburgh still appears to be in play. Through off-season negotiations, Bell took to social media on many occasions in reassuring everybody he wanted to be in Pittsburgh for the remainder of his career, and Pittsburgh’s front office regurgitated the same message during negotiations. Even up to late November, both camps made pushes for a deal.
The Steelers cannot officially tag Bell until Feb. 19, and would have until March 5 to make their decision before free agency begins.
Should the Steelers tag Bell and re-enter contract negotiations, or would they be better off officially cutting ties with the former second round pick?
The case of “The city of Pittsburgh vs Le’Veon Bell” is now in session.
What is the transition tag?
It’s a guarantee you’ve heard the words “Bell/Tag” in the same sentence enough times to make your head spin, but what exactly are people referring to? In the NFL, franchises have the option to use three different franchise tags on impeding players set to become free-agents in order to prevent them from leaving the team: exclusive, non-exclusive and transition tags can only be used once per year by each team.
Le’Veon Bell was designated with franchise tags in 2017 and 2018, both of which were exclusive tags. Exclusive tags indicate the player can only negotiate with their current club and no other team. The player is guaranteed a one-year deal that represents an average of the top five salaries at his position for that current season, or 120 percent of his previous season’s salary, whatever number is higher.
The non-exclusive tag would pay the player the top five salaries of said position over the previous five seasons. That figure is then compared to the percentage of salary cap being used per season. If a player is designated with the non-exclusive tag, they are allowed to enter negotiations with another club. Should another team offer them a contract, the original team (the Steelers in this scenario) would either have the right to match the offer and retain the player, or refuse to match the offer and receive two first round picks from the signing team.
The transition tag works similar to the non-exclusive tag: Tagged player is able to seek other options in free agency, and original team would have the chance to match an offer that’s made. The differences? No compensation is given if the team decides to not match an offer, and the salary is an average of the top ten players at the given position if the player is on the roster for the following year.
Why the transition tag, and not the non-exclusive tag?
The Steelers essentially don’t believe teams will be willing to fork over two first round picks for Le’Veon Bell and his services, and thus favor the transition tag over the non-exclusive tag. With the transition tag allowing Bell to test the waters of free agency, the organization is somewhat betting the big money market Bell believes is there isn’t actually there. This would do one of two things:
1. Drive the price down of a potential deal, giving the Steelers a more reasonable price to work with.
2. It would allow other teams, if they wanted, to throw big money at Bell without the risk of giving up two first round picks.
Many people have thrown around a figure in the likes of more than $20 million for Bell’s franchise tag. This would be the case due to Bell being franchise tagged a third season. However, since the transition tag is considered a separate entity, this would not be the case.
So, what’s the number the Steelers would have to pay?
This is where things get… wonky. Here’s what Schefter said in his most recent article about Bell and the potential tag situation:
“There also is a battle brewing between the NFL and the 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.”
If the Steelers do indeed transition tag Bell, this appears it will be only be the beginning of a battle between the NFL/NFLPA over Bell’s contract.
Pros to using the transition tag on Le’Veon Bell
Here’s where a lot of Steelers fans will be quick to show Bell the door and happily let him walk. No matter your reserved feelings about Bell, it’s undeniable his talent ranks him as not only one of the best running backs in football, but one of the best offensive weapons in the league. Bell’s versatility would be of great use in an offense that at times last season surely could have used another dimension to it.
Using the transition tag would not guarantee Bell would be back in a Steelers uniform. In fact, as stated in the above points, it would further encourage teams to approach Bell since they would not owe the Steelers any compensation should they decide to not match a deal. If you wanted Bell out-of-town, the transition tag is your best chance depending on how the dominoes fall.
Furthermore, rather than letting Bell simply walk, at the bare minimum it would let the Steelers see if any offers would be in the realm of possibility for them. In a league where the running back position is devaluing by the second, it’s more probable than not Bell does not see the money he oh so desires.
Why does applying the transition tag make sense? In a best case scenario, you are able to sign Bell to a lower contract offer then he originally demanded, and secure what would be the best running back stable in the league with James Conner in the mix. Worst case scenario? You at least see the type of money Bell is offered, laugh, and wave goodbye to Le’Veon with no repercussions.
Cons to using the transition tag on Le’Veon Bell
Haven’t we had enough of this headache? You don’t need to pay Bell a significant amount of money when a backfield of James Conner and Jaylen Samuels virtually replaced him for fractions of the money Bell is seeking. We can also factor in the drama, off-field issues, health concerns and age (turns 27 this month) for wanting a new deal to be taken off the table.
In what will have been three years of failed contract negotiations between the Steelers and Bell’s camp, it’s evident they simply don’t see eye-to-eye. That’s fine, business works that way often times. However, if you’re very sure you’re not going to reach a deal, why place a tag on Bell that would not let you get any compensation back for him? If the Steelers let Bell walk without a tag, they would receive what is estimated to be a third round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Additionally, if you wish for Bell to remain in Pittsburgh, the transition tag won’t do much for you. The non-exclusive tag, while extremely expensive, would almost guarantee Bell stays in Pittsburgh due to teams likely not forking over two first round picks to attain Bell. Let’s not forget, teams have until mid-July to negotiate a new deal, so the upwards of $20 million Bell would be looking at would drop down to reasonable prices, should both camps agree on a deal.
With Bell’s unused $14.5 million being rolled into this year’s salary cap, the Steelers can now cleanly move on from Bell if he still seeks the money he desires. After no-showing for the 2018 season, failing to communicate with his teammates, and being an overall negative distraction to the Steelers organization during his time in Pittsburgh, it might just be time to cut the tie with Bell loose. Get your compensatory pick and build your defense some more.
NFL Announces Coaches can Return to Team Facilities
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that coaching staffs may return to team facilities Friday, June 5 in a memo issued to teams Thursday morning.
Here is the crux of the memo that just went out to teams from the NFL regarding coaches being back in the building safely. Still no players, but a reason for optimism. pic.twitter.com/A8LyqqHJK3— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 4, 2020
Staying consistent with their message throughout the reopening process, coaches may return only if clubs have “received necessary permission from state and local governments.”
Clubs were informed last week that coaches will count towards the maximum number of employees permitted in facilities, but the total number allowed will increase from 75 to 100 tomorrow as well.
While Goodell has not yet announced when all players will be cleared to return, he did add that the league is still working “with clubs medical staffs to implement a program of COVID-19 testing” prior to players coming back.
Injured and rehabbing players were some of the first who received the green light to return to team facilities, and have been back for a few weeks now.
Club facilities were initially closed by the league back on March 25 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While coaches are likely eager to return to their team facilities, they should make themselves comfortable for the long haul.
Goodell’s memo comes a day after multiple reports that the league informed franchises they must conduct training camp from their practice facilities this August.
This would mean the Steelers will be prepping for the season on the South Side, instead of making a 55th-consecutive trip to St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
Art Rooney II, Steelers Issue Statements on Killing of George Floyd, Protests
Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II released a statement Wednesday on the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and the ensuing protests seen across the nation.
“Over the last week, we have witnessed the anger and frustration in our city and around the country relating to the killing of George Floyd and the recent deaths of African-American men and women. We have also witnessed the good in so many people who have peacefully expressed their concerns.”
“I am proud to hear the voices of many of our players who have spoken out against racism and injustice and called for unity. As an organization, we will continue to listen to our players, coaches, alumni and leaders in our community and work together to bring awareness and change in the effort to create a more fair and equal community.”
A number of prominent Steelers players also shared statements and comments regarding Floyd’s death and the nationwide protests, including Cam Heyward, Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, Vince Williams, JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.J. Watt.
Defensive end Cam Heyward:
“A friend, a brother, a father, a son, just someone you meet, these are different ways people might know George Floyd. To know that the color of my skin could be at the discretion of someone who is supposed to protect is truly disheartening. I’m praying for the Floyd family.”
“To know a brother, a friend or someone I care about could be gone due to this just hurts. It’s not acceptable. Thank you for the people who do serve the right way and continue to protect our freedoms. I wish all held up his end and cared for all.”
“We all have people we care about and the fact that we can’t believe in everyone who is in the position of power to keep all safe angers me and tears me up. Change must happen. Our children are inheriting a world that is not improving. Life should be precious.”
“I still can’t find my words to make sense of it all. Too many have died, and not enough has changed.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger:
“The cruelty and injustice must stop, racism must end, and love must find a way to prevail. We are all children of God, equal in his eyes, and must hold one another accountable to fair and just standards.”
Running back James Conner:
“If we keep showing hate and violence, we will continue to have hate and violence. If we keep showing peace and love, we will have peace and love. I’ve retweeted disturbing and negative videos to HOPE they understand, but I will only be posting love from here on out. We know what’s been done and know it’s wrong.
“Make the Twitter timeline full of positivity. Like I said, I’ve been guilty of retweeting negative content, but that’s not it. They want the sickening and shameless videos at 100,000+ retweets to keep us divided. Make unity and togetherness the only content we see.”
Inside linebacker Vince Williams:
“Send me the GoFundMe of businesses that have been destroyed by the riots. I’ve done independent searches, but hopefully this helps me to be more thorough.”
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster:
“Our country is in pain right now, and coming together is the only way to heal each other. No more injustice!”
Outside linebacker T.J. Watt:
JuJu Smith-Schuster Delivers Pizzas to Steelers Fans
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is bringing some joy to fans during tough times.
Smith-Schuster spent his Tuesday afternoon delivering pizzas for PizzaHut, and even took the time to snap a pic with a young fan, courtesy of JimStamm22 on Twitter.
Hopefully, this gives everyone a little lift today. @TeamJuJu just delivered @pizzahut to our house in Pittsburgh. He even took a little time to take a picture with our son, Ben. Thanks Juju, you made our day!!! 👍😁🍕#Steelers #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/u7u561SheP— ForTheCity_412 (@JimStamm22) June 2, 2020
A fan favorite, Smith-Schuster is entering his fourth season in Pittsburgh.
After an explosive sophomore season in 2018, Smith-Schuster battled injuries and inconsistent quarterback play that combined for a lackluster 2019.
With the return of franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Smith-Schuster appears primed to deliver more than pizzas this upcoming season.