According to Kaboly, Bell’s camp has received new information from the collective bargaining agreement that shows he’ll be a third-year franchise player in 2019, even if he doesn’t report to the team for the 2018 season.
Previous reports had said that the franchise tag figure would revert to the second year tag if Bell didn’t report this season, but it would cost the Steelers upwards of $25 million to franchise him in 2019.
With this in mind, Kaboly says there’s a “real possibility” Bell won’t report by next week’s deadline.
It’s still possible that the Steelers could use their transition tag on Bell next, but that probably wouldn’t have a big impact on whether he’ll return to the team, seeing as he’s likely to command a better contract from another team that Pittsburgh will be unwilling to match.
Bell, 26, is a former second-round pick of the Steelers back in 2013. He played out the final year of his four-year, $4,120,600 rookie contract that included a $1,376,800 signing bonus and was in position to be one of the best players in the free agent market when he was franchised.
The Steelers used the franchise tag on Bell again this offseason, which means he stands to make $14.5 million fully guaranteed for the 2018 season before testing the open market as an unrestricted free agent next year.
In 2017, Bell has appeared in 15 games for the Steelers and rushed for 1, 291yards on 321 carries (4 YPC) to go along with 85 receptions for 655 yards receiving and 11 total touchdowns. Pro Football Focus had him rated as the No. 9 running back out of 58 qualifying players.
We have him featured in our Top 25 – 2019 NFL Free Agents list.