Le’Veon Bell can stay away through Week 10

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For players under contract who hold out into the regular season (none will in 2018), the deadline for showing up and getting credit for the contract year isn’t entirely clear. For franchise-tagged players who have not yet signed their tenders, the labor deal is a clear as it can be.

And so, as Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell closes in on possibly skipping regular-season games and the $855,000 checks that go along with them, he can do that for 10 total weeks and still become eligible for free agency in 2019. Article 10, Section 15(a) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement articulates the deadline: The window on Bell playing in 2018 closes at 4:00 p.m. ET, on the Tuesday after Week 10.

If he signs his franchise tender before then, he’ll be free in 2019 (unless the Steelers sign him to a long-term deal after the season or apply the franchise tag for a third time, which becomes the quarterback tender by rule). After that, he can’t play at all in 2018, and the Steelers can tag him in 2019 at $14.54 million.

Bell would lose $8.55 million by staying away that long, and then the question would be whether he’d play well enough (and be healthy enough) to be a hot commodity on the open market. Which then raises the question of whether Bell would consider skipping the year, daring the Steelers to tag him again.

It’s not an easy riddle to solve, especially with Bell’s agent sending mixed signals about hoping to prevent the Steelers from treating Bell like a rental car with unlimited free collision coverage and Bell wanting to have the best statistical season of his career.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that something has happened since Bell’s agent said in July that Bell would follow the same plan that he deployed a year ago, showing up on Labor Day and playing in the first game of the regular season. Maybe Bell was influenced by all the money that was paid out in the past week, to players like Odell Beckham, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Donald, and Khalil Mack. Bell belongs in that group from an ability standpoint, so he surely believes he belongs in that group from a compensation standpoint.

30 responses to “Le’Veon Bell can stay away through Week 10

  1. The tag is extremely unfair to running backs. And he is right the Steelers would abuse him with overuse. In his situation being 27 years old before hitting free agency will cost him millions. He should have held our till week 10 last year. Steelers are screwing him.

  2. The Steelers have been getting away with low-balling players like Bell and Brown, for years. Then, they claim they are “disappointed” when he doesn’t show up for the first game. Gurley got paid (though not mentioned in the story above). Time for the Steelers to pay-up, stop whining, or trade him.

  3. If he goes that route just make him inactive for the rest of the season since he won’t be much help at that point. It’d probably take him a month to get in game shape and by then the season would be over and Conner could have supplanted him as the starter.

  4. I don’t think the Steelers would tag him a third time and pay the qb tender. If Bell shows up and signs his tender he’ll be a free agent. The question is whether Bell wants all 14.54 million for the whole season or 6 million for six games, knowing he’d probably not play the first week after he reports.

  5. Steelers gave him 406 touches last year in 15 regular season games. Another 25 in their playoff game. And they’re surprised he’s not reporting? Demarco Murray got 450 touches in 2014 and his career lasted 3 more years.

    His mistake was playing the year on the tag last year, as shown by Mack and Donald playing hard ball gets results.

  6. Repeating what I said on an earlier story, I’ll bet even the most ardent Steeler fan is getting sick of all the drama.

  7. Bell is just playing to available leverage.

    If I’m Pittsburgh, I let him dictate and then use and abuse the heck out of him when he reports. Plays only 6 games? Great, fresh legs for a playoff run. And only pay him about,what? $5M?

    That makes it easy to tag him again next off-season. Just let him keep playing partial seasons for partial money.

  8. packers291 says:
    September 5, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    What happens if he shows up for games, dresses, but plays poorly or does not play?


    If he did that, he’d be basically destroying his value on the open market.

    One, because he would be viewed as a locker room disturbance
    Two, because teams wouldn’t know if he was telling the truth or lost a step

    Maybe Nike will add him to their Ad campaign. Risking it all for… wait… I don’t think this is as noble of a cause.

  9. Someone has to stand up to these extorting players. If they fail to show up for training camp which is designed to get them ready for the season, then they should be barred playing a down or getting paid for the regular and post season of that year.

    If we are serious about player safety, then no player who has missed training camp should ever play a down in the regular or post season. Players who are injured should get their salaries, but those who extort for money should not receive a dime. And their contracts should be reset by adding another year to them.

    Time to make someone the example – Bell is a good one to leaving hanging.

  10. Bell needs to wait until mid-season to show up. He needs to show up in top shape so he can play at a high level once he’s there. He can’t let the Steelers run him into the ground like last season, but he needs to show he’s still a top back this season.

    He’ll make up the lost half a season of pay and then some when he signs a new deal elsewhere.

  11. His mistake was playing the year on the tag last year, as shown by Mack and Donald playing hard ball gets results.
    Bell is tagged so Mack and Donald’s situation doesn’t apply since the Steelers are no longer allowed to negotiate a long term deal until January. At this point its either play for $14.5M or sit out in hopes to preserve your body for a long term deal next year. Seems that he plans to sit out as long as possible in hopes for a big 2019 pay day. Hard to blame him for wanting to get the most of what is likely his one and only big contract but sitting out seems a little risky to me

  12. Truth is, Pitt needs to trade him because Brown is eating all the cap. And deservedly so.

    SF needs a RB.
    NYJ needs a RB.
    IND needs a RB.
    TB needs a RB.
    WAS needs a RB.

    They have suitors.

    Additionally, he’d be a great upgrade for:

    OAK, SEA, NE, DET, BUF (McCoy is a Ray Rice video away from the exempt list)

    That’s a third of the league that could be in play. They would be foolish not to trade him right now vs risk him sitting out until week 10.

  13. iconoclast17 says: “The Steelers have been getting away with low-balling players like Bell and Brown, for years. Then, they claim they are “disappointed” when he doesn’t show up for the first game. Gurley got paid (though not mentioned in the story above). Time for the Steelers to pay-up, stop whining, or trade him.”

    Steelers are at $175,293,982 in the 2018 year (if Bell signs). Their adjusted cap is $181m (w/ rollover) – meaning they are close to the max. By definition, Steeler players ARE getting paid.

  14. Bell doesn’t have that many years left, it would be stupid to miss out on most of a season.
    And I think he made a mistake staying away so long because he wont be in shape. His stats wont be as good, coupled with if he has a slightly down year his overall stats may decline and that could hurt his next payday.

  15. How does it play if he shows up to sign in week 10 and the Steelers rescind? Would he still be credited for the year? Free to sign immediately with another team?

    I have to believe the Steelers see the writing on the wall in that he’s not going to go 100% because he doesn’t want to get hurt. They would be fools to have not had conversation with several teams about a possible trade. Obviously he can’t be traded until he signs, but is it possible they haven’t found a trade suitor Bell can agree to a long term deal with?

  16. As a lifelong Steelers’ fan, I hope Bell doesn’t let the door hit him in the ass on his way out of Pittsburgh. I would rather watch Conner, and a band of rag tag misfit RBs, than watch Bell play one more snap with the Steelers. The Patriots have proven, time and again, you don’t need primadonna RBs to win championships.

  17. What team in the right mind is going to want to pay a guy who doesn’t want to play football? Heck, even Earl Thomas reported. If the guy only cares about money…. no thanks. I’d rather bring in guys that love the game and want to play. Bell obviously just wants the money and is trying to work all the angles to make the most money without actually playing. I’m not a Mike Tomlin, Big Ben or Antonio Brown fan though so I think it’s kind of funny. Guess I won’t be picking Bell in my fantasy football draft tonight.

  18. Just a guess but this won’t drag out past this week. If he doesn’t sign this will become a backburner issue. Further, he likely won’t get to week 10. They’ll rescind the offer a week or two earlier. At that point, no one will want him in that locker room. He would be a cancer. Heck, his agent’s statements today basically told all his OL to not block for him.

    He wants out and doing everything he can to get out.

  19. Like most things in live it is all about timing, and for a guy that has a patient running style, his timing here can’t be worse.

    He should have held out in 2015, the year after his first big season (2014) when he was 23 – but he lost his leverage due to a marijuana arrest and suspension. He followed it up by being a bonehead and getting suspended again in 2016, so he had to play 2017 knowing he had no leverage. He is looking at hitting the FA market at 27, or if the Steelers tag him again – 28. No one is giving a 28 year old RB $45 mil guaranteed like they did to a 24 year old Gurley – and by then the $30+ mil the Steelers offered will look pretty, pretty good.

  20. If Bell believes his Agent(s) that playing this kind of hardball while losing $900,000 a game for ten games will improve his future value?? He is way off base. Teams will have to look at him as a major major risk on the mental side plus he is not getting any younger. No team will guarantee more than two years for a headcase at best. Subtract the $9 million and he will have trouble breaking even with the money he will lose this year.

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