As of now, neither Bell nor his agent, Adisa Bakari, have given the Steelers an indication of when he will report to the team.
Bell needs to sign his franchise tender by Nov. 13, which is the Tuesday after Week 10 game, in order to be eligible to play for any NFL team this season.
La Canfora says that Steelers’ coaches and officials expect Bell to sign the franchise tender by then, but notes that the CBA does not stipulate that a player must report to his team by that date. Instead, he just needs to sign the deal before 4pm EST in order to be eligible to play.
La Canfora mentions that Bell could conceivably skip the deadline and sit out the entire 2018 season. Although, La Canfora reports that the Steelers would strongly consider applying the franchise or transition tag to him in 2019 if he went this route.
If it comes to a situation where the Steelers tag Bell, La Canfora believes it would trigger a heated arbitration process with the NFLPA as to what the 2019 salary for Bell should be under either tag.
For what it’s worth, sources have told La Canfora that the transition tag for Bell could be as low as the 2019 running back transition number of roughly $9 million, which is far less than the $14.5 million he would have made under the franchise tag.
The Steelers still plan to use a two-week roster exemption for Bell when he does report to the team, which typically leads to players being paid a reduced rate while on the list.
Bell had come up as a potential trade candidate but La Canfora says no teams called the Steelers about Bell before the deadline.
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.