Bell won't be playing again until 2019.
At long last, the Le'Veon Bell saga has come to an end.
The NFL's 4pm deadline has come and gone, and Bell did not report to the Pittsburgh Steelers to sign the franchise tender, meaning he is officially ineligible for the remainder of the season. As a result, Bell will enter free agency next summer with a clean bill of health, though he also missed out on $14.5 million by forfeiting the entire 2018 season. Had he signed today, he still would have been able to recoup approximately $6 million.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert released a brief statement regarding today's development that reads, "I want to confirm that Le’Veon Bell did not sign his Franchise Tender today and, as a result, he will not be eligible to play football during the 2018 season." When asked what happens if Bell never returns to the Steelers, head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday afternoon, "So be it," according to ESPN.
As ESPN's Adam Schefter reports, the Steelers are unlikely to place a franchise tag on Bell next season because the price would rise to more than $25 million.
"A third franchise tag in 2019 would rise to $25 million-plus -- based on a formula involving the five highest-paid players in the league -- regardless of whether Bell played a down in 2018. In the offseason, the Steelers will consider using a $14.5 million transition tag, which allows them to match any outside offer for Bell or let him walk in free agency. If he signed a lucrative deal elsewhere, the Steelers would receive a midround compensatory draft pick."
Bell, who turns 27 in February, had told ESPN on October 1 that he was going to play this season, saying, "I still want to go out there and win a Super Bowl with the Steelers." Now we know for sure, that won't be the case.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are currently riding a five game winning streak that has them sitting atop the AFC North with a 6-2-1 record. Bell's replacement, James Conner, ranks second in the NFL with 1,158 yards from scrimmage and has reached the endzone 11 times.