Will the Steelers use the transition tag on Le’Veon Bell?

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Although the question of whether the Vikings cut running back Adrian Peterson won’t affect the amount of the franchise tag applicable to Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, there’s another development that will: Not using the franchise tag at all.

The Steelers could opt to use the transition tag instead of the franchise tag on Bell. The transition tag would give the Steelers a right to match any offer sheet that Bell signs elsewhere; the franchise tag would provide a right to match and two first-round picks as compensation if he leaves (breaking: no one will be giving up two first-round picks for Bell).

If no one is willing to give Bell the kind of contract he wants even without losing draft picks, he’d be eligible to stay in Pittsburgh on a one-year deal that equates to, per a league source, 5.892 percent of the 2017 salary cap. That’s considerably less than the 7.257-percent rate that applies under the franchise tag for running backs.

Based on a $165 million salary cap, those percentages equate to a franchise tender of $11.97 million and a transition tender of $9.72 million. For the Steelers, the question becomes whether it’s worth the extra $2.25 million to prevent another team from trying to pilfer Bell.

If the Steelers believe that no other team would break the bank for a guy who a significant injury history, a groin injury that was bad enough to at least make surgery an option, and a pair of substance-abuse policy violations, it makes plenty of sense to save the money and retain the rights to a running back who has been great when healthy and available, but who isn’t healthy and available often enough (he has missed 20 total games in four seasons) to justify that kind of investment.

In an era when the transition tag isn’t used on a regular basis, the Steelers have applied it twice in the last decade. In 2014, linebacker Jason Worilds received the transition tag. Ditto for tackle Max Starks six years earlier.

33 responses to “Will the Steelers use the transition tag on Le’Veon Bell?

  1. Steelers usually are wise in these kinds of moves. That groin injury likely cost Bell dearly. Bell’s first playoff run, and he can’t finish.

    Could a been contender…

  2. Not sure what the Steelers’ cap situation looks like, but if they’re tight, they’d run the risk of a team signing Bell to an offer structured in front loaded manner that would preclude the Steelers from matching it. I don’t think you run the risk of losing a player of Bell’s caliber over a $2.25M.

  3. From what I hear Pittsburgh is pretty sure they’re eventually going to be able to sign both Bell and Brown, and probably even a few other players, such as Villanueva.

    Just Lawrence Timmons’ contract alone counted for almost $15 million in cap room last year and now he’s off the books. This is the best cap situation I’ve ever seen the Steelers be in. I think Brown who’s in his last year signs an extension, then Bell gets the franchise, and they make a deal with Bell by training camp.

    Go Steelers!

  4. Buckle your seatbelts, Steeler fans. I have a feeling this one is going to be a tough negotiation. Bell feels like he’s worth a lot, and he can’t stay healthy. It’s s tough spot… I’m not trolling.

  5. The question is which teams would spend two first rounds picks to get Bell since the Steelers are Cap strapped and probably wouldn’t be able to match any offer.

    Biggest fear would be seeing the Pats getting Bell and effectively closing the contention window for the Steelers for the next 3 years (assuming Brady doesn’t get old suddenly at 40 which is plausible).

    Bell and Brown probably have about 4-5 years where they combined can keep the Steelers in the upper tier of the NFL as long as they have someone better then Landry Jones.

  6. Steelers usually are wise in these kinds of moves. That groin injury likely cost Bell dearly. Bell’s first playoff run, and he can’t finish.
    ————–

    The Steelers have significant cap issues almost every year, granted they are wise in many areas but money is not one of them.

  7. .
    ” the franchise tag would provide a right to match and two first-round picks as compensation if he leaves (breaking: no one will be giving up two first-round picks for Bell). ”

    The Patriots have the 32nd pick this year and very likely a similar pick next year. Would their situation, given the limited Brady window, be one where giving up the two first rounders is value? Keep in mind that Belichick talks about Bell as if he was an offensive Ed Reed, and the addition of the versatile Bell would make the Patriots offense near impossible to stop.

    New England may end up with additional picks if they swing a deal for Garoppolo and they are flush with cap dollars.
    .

  8. Steelers got burned doing this with Emmanuel Sanders who went on to play for a team that didnt choke when it met the Patriots. Since the team loves to repeat mistakes, I predict they’ll do every possible stupid thing to keep Bell who will prove to be a waste of cap space and nothing but trouble.

  9. The transition tag aka we’ll lowball you and then if it comes down to it maybe pay you what another team is willing to pay. This is how you lose players mentally a year before you lose them entirely. Steelers would be dumb to play that game when he’s their biggest crutch when Big Ben folds in week 4.

  10. As far as retaining Bell goes Pitt is probably more than safe using the transition tag, it’s hard to imagine any team giving up 2 firsts and tying up that kind of cap room for him. Not because he isn’t talented (outside of Johnson no one is even close to his talent) or is oft injured but because of the suspension risk. Bell is 2 strikes deep already.

  11. I’m not a Steelers fan, in fact I hate them, but …

    I strongly disagree with using either the franchise tag or the transition tag on a running back. They’re close to ‘a dime a dozen’ and they’re always getting hurt.

    Plenty of UDFAs out there every year. E.g. the Seahawks didn’t need to draft Thomas Rawls.

    Bring a gaggle of running backs into training camp and keep the best 3 or 4. Problem solved.

  12. The fact that Bell is one strike away from having to sit a full season is not to be overlooked. Seems like every high profile player who gets to the cliff jumps right off it.

    Sure a suspension doesn’t cost a team money, but if you invest big in someone that gets the hook it’ll put a big crimp in your vision for the team. Think the Steelers could have used Martavais Bryant this year when Coates was dropping all those passes?

  13. Once defenses figure out his little gimic of a running style he is going to average 1yd a carry. The Steelers know this and are not going to mortgage the future for him.

  14. The Steelers are not going to risk losing Bell, he is a massive part of their offense and on his day unstoppable. His running style is amazing, not just his moves but his vision.

    This Patriots fan would love to have Bell on our team, but I can guarantee you it has zero hope of happening.

    I still say of all the teams in the AFC I would be worried about the most it is the Steelers. That offense is tough to match up to and if we lose some of our remaining starting defenders it may just be too much to stop this team in the future.

    My guess is they will get a deal done if not you absolutely franchise him he is that good.

  15. unreliable. not a good trait for a big money player in the nfl. dudes gonna fade away quickly after he gets a big guarantee.

  16. the Steelers are NOT cap strapped this year. They are projected to have at least 32 million in available cap space this year.

  17. One very good reason why the transition tag is seldom used is that it does not work.
    I have seen Miami tried to use the transition tag twice in the last two seasons. On Charles Clay and Olivier Vernon. Both players left for other teams.
    The transition tag does three things:
    1. Upsets the player as most as possible. The team does not want to get the player a long term contract and also does not want to pay the value of a franchise tag.
    2. Makes the mad player feel safe. If nothing else comes along he can always sign the tag and play. Or at least suit up and get checks.
    3. Tells other team what offer they need to make and how to structure the contract so the first team can’t match.
    If the team does not want to pay the full franchise they are better off letting the player hit free agency. A lot better chance of keeping the player.

  18. I’m surprised that more teams don’t use the Transition tag. Unless your Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, no one is giving up 2 first round picks for most players.

  19. There is always at least one moron owner or GM who will overpay if the Steelers use the transition tag.

    Add to that Bell presumably is not excited about being franchised rather than getting the long term contract with bonus – Steelers lowballing him with transition salary is something the baseball Pirates would do

    No way transition tag is used

  20. Steelers won’t tag this guy. They have a solid running game and can easily find another quality back. See Cowboys who wouldn’t resign De Marco after his record breaking year.

  21. Those saying the Steelers aren’t smart with their money are dead wrong. They spend money wisely. They keep their own players and build from within. You aren’t good for 40+ years if you don’t know what you are doing. Yes they are normally up against the cap but they don’t normally have holes to fill because their starter left for more money. Normally if they let a player go it’s because they had someone on the roster ready to replace them. The only big free agents you can say they lost were Burress and Fanaca maybe throw Sanders in there but I don’t think they went after him very hard having Brown and Wheaton. So yeah they don’t spend in free agency I don’t care about that. It takes real skill to hold onto your superstars and stay under the cap.

  22. Bell is NOT one strike away from having to sit a full season.
    If there is another weed related incident, he will get
    the mandated 4 games, as per agreement.

  23. bjwbrown2011 says:
    Feb 24, 2017 7:33 PM
    The question is which teams would spend two first rounds picks to get Bell since the Steelers are Cap strapped and probably wouldn’t be able to match any offer.

    Biggest fear would be seeing the Pats getting Bell and effectively closing the contention window for the Steelers for the next 3 years (assuming Brady doesn’t get old suddenly at 40 which is plausible).

    ——————————-

    Unless BB retires or the Steelers replace Mike Tomlin the Steelers window is not only closed….it is nailed shut.

  24. Two knee injuries, groin injury now…nobody is giving up two 1st round picks. The Steelers would save $4 million or so with transition tag instead. They’ll use this money to sign Brown and most likely Tuitty to new deals, long-term with Bell, and I think they may make a move in FA that will surprise (CB or OLB)

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