It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers have decided they are not letting Le’Veon Bell go without a fight. Several reports say the team is planning on using the transition tag on Bell this off-season. This type of tag allows the team to match any offer Bell might receive during free agency. There are many complications that come with using this type of tag with the intent making some type of trade afterwards. For example, there will be a cap hold of nearly $15 million until this matter is finally worked out. This would essentially take the Steelers out of the market for any top tier free agents. There’s also the possibility a team could make a crazy contract offer the Steelers could simply not risk matching. If the team decided not to match, they would have no compensatory pick for losing Bell because the transition tag was applied. Going this route is a half measure that can only cause more trouble than its worth.
If the Steelers really want to get compensated for Le’Veon Bell there’s only one option for them. The team needs to go nuclear, and use the franchise tag. This will not sit well with Bell at all, but it does give the team back the control it needs. Using the franchise tag for the third straight year will cost Pittsburgh the highest possible tag amount. That means the Steelers would be on the hook for close to $25 million on a position where no one makes even half that. Keep in mind though that the intention is not to keep Bell at this price. The plan would then be to seek a trade with all the leverage back in the team’s court. No more half measures. No more playing nice. The franchise tag eliminates most of Bell’s options accept one.
That one option would be to sit out yet another season. It really becomes his only recourse in fighting this tag designation. Both sides know full well however that Bell can not afford to sit out a second consecutive season. The hope of course is to avoid this entirely. The two sides would need to work together to make a trade happen. Pittsburgh would allow Bell to shop himself around when and only when he agrees to sign the franchise tag. Once he finds a deal he likes, the Steelers can then work out a trade with that team. Kevin Colbert and company don’t necessarily need a king’s ransom in return for Bell. If all goes according to plan, the team could salvage something close to a second round pick from this process.
No one can blame the Steelers for wanting more than a possible mid-round pick in 2020 for an asset like Le’Veon Bell. Using the transition tag is weak, and won’t get the result Pittsburgh is looking for. If the team is dead set on getting a good return for Bell, they have to be willing to get their hands a little dirty. Franchising Le’Veon Bell will make for a very bumpy ride during the off-season make no mistake about it. If that’s not what the Steelers want, then don’t tag him at all and let the soap opera end. Don’t put us through an off-season full of nonsense only to end up with nothing. Which is exactly what would happen by using the transition tag.