According to NFL Networks Maurice Jones-Drew (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk), Bells agent, Adisa Bakari, didnt initially realize that Bell could be eligible for the quarterback franchise tender next season even if he sits out the entire 2018 season.
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Agent didnt know that LeVeon Bell possibly doesnt have to show up to force QB tender
“So what happened was that once that came out, that theyre now digging and reading … trying to understand the language, because theres a lot of language in the CBA, especially for this particular instance,” Jones-Drew said. “So theyre going back now to really sit down and figure out [the language].”
So the theory that the Steelers have leaked the idea that LeVeon Bell doesnt have to show up this year to force his way to free agency next year definitely holds water.
NFL Networks Maurice Jones-Drew, who is represented by Bells agent, Adisa Bakari, recently acknowledged that Bakari didnt know that Bell possibly will be eligible for the quarterback franchise tender in 2019, even if Bell doesnt play at all in 2019.
Because of the $25 million-plus franchise-tag number in 2019, the transition tag would be the more likely scenario for the Steelers if they choose to try to keep Bell. The running back would be free to negotiate with NFL teams, but the Steelers would have the right to match any offer. If the Steelers don’t match the offer, they would receive no compensation.
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So what happened was that once that came out, that theyre now digging and reading the trying to understand the language, because theres a lot of language in the CBA, especially for this particular instance, Jones-Drew said. So theyre going back now to really sit down and figure out [the language].
Jones-Drew also suggested that the relevant language in the new CBA (i.e., the one passed seven years ago) has changed. But it hasnt.
From Article 10, Section 15(c) of the 2011 CBA: If any Franchise Player does not play in the NFL in a League Year, his Prior Team shall have the right to designate such player as a Franchise Player or a Transition Player the following League Year, if such designation is otherwise available to the Team, except that the applicable Tender must be made and any 120% Tender shall be measured from the Players Prior Year Salary.
From Article XX, Section 17(a) of the 2006 CBA: If a Franchise Player does not play in the NFL in a League Year, his Prior Team shall have the right to designate such player as a Franchise Player or a Transition Player the following League Year, if such designation is otherwise available to the Team, except that the applicable tender must be made and any 120% tender shall be measured from the Players prior year salary.
The unresolved question is this: If Bell, franchise-tagged a second time this year, will be treated as being franchise-tagged a second time or a third time in 2019, if he doesnt play in 2018? And the language quoted above doesnt provide a conclusive answer.
Which makes the teams willingness to acknowledge that a third tag in 2019 counts as the third tag under the CBA (making him eligible for the quarterback tender) even if he doesnt show up this year seem even more bizarre. The league and its teams never tip their hand on issues like this, and they never (I guess I can no longer say never) admit preemptively that the leagues position would lose, if push came to shove.
"I dont know what his plans are, but I would say at this point we expect him to come back next week," Steelers owner Art Rooney II said on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Thursday. "We know hes back in Pittsburgh and so were hoping to have some communications with him over the weekend and were kind of expecting he will be back next week."
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Here, who knows whether the team/league or the player/union would prevail? The fact that the team/league is leaking to league-employed reporters that Bell can sit out the full year and still be eligible for the quarterback franchise tender suggests that the team simply doesnt want him to show up this year.