Pittsburgh’s reported plan for Le’Veon Bell would violate the CBA

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NFL teams love to embrace the provisions of the CBA that give them leverage and options. And NFL teams love to ignore the provisions of the CBA that limit their power.

On both sides of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, NFL teams currently are contemplating the application of a tag in a manner that would violate the labor deal, which expressly requires that any team that extends the franchise or transition tender must have a good-faith intention to employ the player at the amount of the tender.

The Eagles reportedly are considering using the franchise tag in order to facilitate a trade of quarterback Nick Foles, not to pay $25 million in 2019 to a backup quarterback. Likewise, the Steelers reportedly are considering using the transition tag in order to pull off what would be a more convoluted effort to trade running back Le'Veon Bell.

As explained by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Ideally, the Steelers would find a team interested in Bell, place the transition tag on him, sign him and trade him to that interested team the same day.”

But the ideal scenario will require the cooperation of Bell and his agent, Adisa Bakari. Bell can’t be traded unless and until he signs the transition tender. If he doesn’t sign it, he can’t be traded.

The ideal scenario also relies on Bell and Bakari not filing a grievance challenging the Steelers’ effort to tag Bell solely to trade him, and not to employ him at whatever the amount of the transition tender would be. (The fact that he skipped all of the 2018 season complicates the analysis, although the better argument seems to be that he’d be entitled to his $14.54 million franchise tender amount from last season.)

The better approach would be to tag Bell, wait for someone to sign him to a long-term deal, match the offer, and then trade him, either to the team that signed him to the offer or someone else. (A trade to the team that signed Bell to the offer sheet would require the express consent of Bell.)

Although the Steelers’ tag-and-trade plan would violate the CBA, a plan to tag him and keep him would defy common sense, especially with both James Conner and Jaylen Samuels operating under far more reasonably-priced rookie deals.

So if the Steelers apply the transition tag, Bell should fight it. It’s a fight he could win.

18 responses to “Pittsburgh’s reported plan for Le’Veon Bell would violate the CBA

  1. Is this ever going to end? How could it be possible, given all that’s happened, that Pitt could tag Bell again?

  2. Moot point since a transition tag would only happen in a scenario where all parties involved were in agreement, like a trading partner willing to pay Bell what he’s asking for. In that scenario there would be no legal challenges by Bell.

  3. Being how nobody can “prove” what a team intentions are..it’s not a violation of the CBA..Everything we’ve all heard about either player has come from media speculation. Not from ownership.

  4. “It’s a fight he could win.”

    But won’t. Bell would have to prove to an arbitrator’s satisfaction just what the Steelers’ subjective rationale for applying the tag was. Absent concrete evidence of that (e.g., trade offers made BY the Steelers prior to the application of the tag), that’s quite the tall order.

  5. It would “defy common sense” unless you factor in that he’s a much better player than Samuels and Connor. As a Pit fan, just hoping they get rid of him and AB so we can all move on. Haven’t won anything with them so maybe we’ll win without them.

  6. A transition tag doesn’t prevent another team from signing Bell via free agency it does give the Steelers the ability to match any offer though. That team that offers him a contract can simply structure it so it’s something not palatable to the Steelers or most other teams, maybe a big upfront bonus. That whole Seattle Minnesota fiasco a few years back took away poison pills but not contract structures meant to deter these type of shahanigans.

  7. Strange what is going on with Steelers. First Bell and now Brown. Is it the team or the Head Coach that make these players want to jump ship? Tomlin might have to move on.

  8. I’d franchise tag him again. I would argue in court it is still the 2nd tag at 14.5 million.
    I would tie him up as long as I possibly could. If that failed, then I would transition tag him.
    I would then find ways to make him play or sit another year. I would be a brutal dictator. hahaha

  9. Can’t see a scenario with Bell coming back as most Steeler fans don’t want him. Whatever happens, happens. As long as you make his offseason miserable and get good value back from him.

  10. About 95 percent of the time, I side with players in labor disputes–even when my Steelers are involved. But after Bell screwed over the team with suspensions, they offered to make him the highest-paid running back in NFL history … and it still wasn’t enough. If they can get something for him, they deserve the chance to try. If they’re just messing with his pointy little head, that’s okay, too. I simply hope that when Bell finally lands somewhere, it’s at a lower salary than the Steelers offered.

  11. Screw Bell.. Do whatever it takes to get some value for him and if at the same time you kick dirt in his eye so be it. His garbage hurt the team last year.

  12. Yes, nothing says “you want to play for the Steelers” like watching them screw over one of their own. And everyone wonders why AB went over to the dark side.

    They should just walk away and focus on building a positive culture.

  13. They should just walk away. Bell let $14.5 million sit on the table, which was a foolish move. He’s never going to make that up – it’s gone. He won’t make an extra $14.5 million in his next contract.

    Regardless, let him go. What team wants to sign a franchise tagged player? The tag sets a starting point that’s too high for a long-term contract – both for Bell and for Foles. So a team is set up to overpay for the player they want AND they need to give something to the Steelers/Eagles? No way. Makes zero sense for the acquiring teams.

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