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While the Pittsburgh Steelers try to figure out how to move receiver Antonio Brown, they’ve apparently decided to not complicate their offseason by dragging out the drama with their other unhappy star.
Running back Le’Veon Bell will, finally, be an unrestricted free agent. According to numerous reports including the team’s site, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert put to rest the notion that the Steelers would use the transition tag or another franchise tag on Bell, saying no tag would be used on Bell.
It seemed needlessly complicated and risky to slap the transition tag on Bell and hope for a sign-and-trade that might be slightly better than the compensatory pick the Steelers will get back when Bell signs elsewhere. That won’t happen, and Bell can finally seek that contract he covets with no restrictions.
No tag for Le’Veon Bell
Over the past couple weeks, sources in the know had floated to various outlets the possibility of the team using the transition tag for Bell. A third franchise tag always seemed like an extremely unlikely possibility, but it was also an option.
The theory behind using the transition tag, which would have given the Steelers the right to match any offer sheet, wasn’t that the Steelers wanted Bell back. Instead, they could work out a deal with an interested team, signing Bell (which would require his cooperation) and then trading him to that team. If Bell signed an offer sheet that Pittsburgh couldn’t match, the Steelers wouldn’t get any draft pick compensation. And it’s unclear how much more than the expected third-round compensatory pick the Steelers could have gotten in a trade.
Instead, the Steelers are just going to let it go. After Bell held out all last season, this seems like the best move for everyone.
What’s next for Bell?
Now Bell can seek the fortune he believes he is worth. That might not be all too easy to find.
Many teams aren’t paying running backs top dollar anymore. The weird Todd Gurley playoffs story, when the Rams say they just decided to use C.J. Anderson about half the time, can’t help the market for expensive running backs. But, it only takes one team to believe Bell is worth an enormous contract.
Bell is a great player, arguably the NFL’s most talented running back, and he got to rest his legs all last season while he sat out on his second franchise tag. With the Steelers’ prudent decision to not tag him again, he’ll become a fascinating free agent on March 13.
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