The All-Pro problem: How Pittsburgh Steelers could use LeVeon Bell if RB returns

The All-Pro problem: How Pittsburgh Steelers could use Le\Veon Bell if RB returns
Report: LeVeon Bells Agent Didnt Know RB Eligible for QB Franchise Tag in 2019
Twitter LogoCopy Link IconPittsburgh SteelersReport: LeVeon Bell's Agent Didn't Know RB Eligible for QB Franchise Tag in 2019Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTTwitter LogoFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2018 CommentsComment Bubble Icon

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.

Video: Is LeVeon returning to Pittsburgh? | Jim Rome Show

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].”

Thats the only message Bells put out in the last month, give or take, so how do we know that Bell and his agent are plotting on this loophole? Well, according to Maurice Jones-Drew of NFL Media in an appearance on the always-excellent Dave Dameshek Football Program (I dont often recommend podcasts not by me, but Sheks pod is great, check it out here), Bell and his agent, who is also MJDs agent, are “digging” through the CBA to try and figure out Bells options.

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.

“Once that came out, there is now digging and reading and trying to understand the language – there’s a lot of language in the CBA, particularly for this particular instance,” Jones-Drew said. “It’s going back now, to sit down and figure out … because if it’s true, Le’Veon doesn’t have to play and he still gets the transition tag, which makes him a free agent, and he gets to go out and negotiate with anyone he wants and the Steelers have the right to match it.”

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].

I dont know what his plans are, but I would say that at this point we expect him to come back next week, Rooney told 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.

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.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner has entered the concussion protocol after being taken to the locker room during Thursday nights 52-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers, according to NFL.coms Austin Knoblauch. 

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.

As for what the Steelers will or wont do with Bell after this season, Rooney said he isnt completely sure what the interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement should be when it comes to Bells situation in 2019. The Steelers could franchise tag Bell for a third time in 2019, but he would be tagged at the quarterback salary number, not the lower number he was tagged at this year, according to NFL Networks Tom Pelissero. Rooney said the team will eventually address that issue.

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."

LeVeon Bell live-tweeted Steelers vs. Panthers

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.


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