Deep down everyone knew this was coming. Despite all the optimistic talk from both sides, there’s no way a long-term deal between the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell is ever going to happen. The offer Pittsburgh made last offseason wasn’t good enough, and the team surely isn’t going to up that offer now. Not after Bell is another year older, and has another 400 plus touches under his belt. Bell on the other hand, is determined to shatter the running back market by asking for double what the top back earns right now. When was the last time the Steelers destroyed the market for any player?
So now what? Do the Steelers just tag Bell, and go through another drama filled off-season? It looks like that’s the most likely scenario. If that’s the case, forget about any impact free agents coming to the team this season. Pittsburgh is set to spend a whopping $55 million on offensive three players in 2018 (Ben – 23.2, AB – 17.7, Bell 14.5). A total just short of one-third of the total salary cap. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room for any significant free agent signings. Of course, the team could do more contract restructures to gain additional space under the cap. Even then, it probably wouldn’t be enough to plug some vital holes on the defense.
Another option would be to seek a trade for Bell once the franchise tag is put on him. This is something I’ve been banging the drum for since last off-season. The Steelers can not trade Le’Veon Bell until he actually signs the franchise tag. In theory, that gives him all the leverage when it comes to being moved. If the Steelers found a trade partner willing to give Bell the contract he was looking for though, don’t doubt for one second he wouldn’t sign that tag and move on. This very scenario is being played out right now between the Miami Dolphins and Jarvis Landry. I’m sure the Steelers are paying very close attention to what kind of compensation the Dolphins get for their talented wide receiver.
Whatever happens going forward be sure things will not be boring for Pittsburgh Steelers off-season. Prepare yourself for trade talks, holdouts, contract demands, and who knows what else as this all plays out. Don’t be surprised at all if Le’veon Bell plans to up the stakes in pressuring the Steelers into either signing him, or lifting the tag. Literally nothing would surprise me at this point. It’s going to be one hell of an off-season…..let the fun begin.