Could Steelers use franchise tag on Le'Veon Bell again?

Dak-Prescott-072018-Getty-FTR

If you didn't think the plot could get any thicker in the Pittsburgh Steelers-Le'Veon Bell saga, you're clearly not reading the fine print. "There's now a real possibility that Bell won't report by the deadline".

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back is considering holding out for the duration of the season, instead of returning by the November 13 deadline as many suspect he will, because he stands to benefit a clause in the NFL's collective-bargaining agreement with players that recently caught his representatives' attention, The Athletic's Mark Kaboly reported Tuesday, citing a source. If he doesn't report for the team's Week 11 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he won't play in 2018.

What that would mean is that in order to tag him next year as a franchise player, the Steelers would have to commit to paying Bell $25 million in guaranteed money. If the Steelers did decide to go that route, it would be even more costly than normal.

Third-year franchise-tagged players reportedly will earn more than $25 million next season, and Bell has learned he'll qualify as one in 2019, even if he doesn't play one down this season.

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Another option for Pittsburgh if it wanted to place a third tag on Bell would be the transition tag. It's a non-exclusive deal worth the average of the top 10 salaries at a position. That gives Bell the ability to negotiate with other teams and the Steelers the right to match, which would essentially be the same as him hitting the free agent market.

Pelissero reports the NFLPA could potentially fight if the Steelers tried to use the transition tag in 2019, depending on the situation.

He rushed for 1,291 yards with nine touchdowns over 15 games in 2017 with the Steelers, his fifth year in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers selected the Michigan State product in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

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