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
ESPN predicts Texans sign RB LeVeon Bell in 2019 offseason
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.

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.

“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].”

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.

The NFL season is a little halfway over, yet the predictions for the 2019 offseason are already starting to roll in.

“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.”

One of the wildest predictions, thrown out there by Dan Graziano from ESPN, is that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who has held out all season, will sign with the Houston Texans in the offseason.

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.

Houston might have fluked its way into half of the victories in its current six-game winning streak, but the result is a first-place team poised to make a run to the playoffs. It’s also a team with a boatload of projected 2019 cap space and a quarterback on his inexpensive rookie deal. The Texans will be next season’s Rams — the “all-in” offseason team trying to maximize Deshaun Watson‘s window. Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Bell? Look out.

The notion of putting Bell in the backfield behind Watson is very intriguing. It would give legitimacy to the Houston running game and also give them a very dangerous midrange passing game. Bell has amassed 2,660 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 312 catches in his career. This pairs nicely with his 5,336 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns on 1,229 carries.

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.

The asking price might be a little steep, but if the Texans felt that they needed to put all their chips in on offense, they could most definitely afford it. According to Over The Cap, the Texans will have the sixth-most salary cap space in the NFL at $73.9 million.

Conner, the AFC Offensive Player of the Month, left the game with 13 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown. He also caught one pass for eight yards as the Steelers are just minutes away from winning their fifth consecutive game after a 1-2-1 start to the 2018 season. Conners replacement, Jaylen Samuels, scored his first career touchdown in the third quarter of Thursday nights game. 

2019 NFL Free Agency, App Alert, ESPN, Houston Texans, Houston Texans rushing offense, LeVeon Bell, running back, stn, Latest Texans News

Edit Slot to 247Sports Home Slot to Pittsburgh Steelers Newsletter Newsletter James Conner headed towards the locker room at the start of the fourth quarter of Thursday nights game between the Steelers and Panthers. Conner is questionable to return as he is being evaluated for a possible concussion. Given Pittsburghs 52-14 lead, its safe to say that Conner is done for the night. 

Video: Do the Steelers still want LeVeon Bell back? | First Take

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