Le'Veon Bell

AFC Notes: Browns, Dorsey, Bills, Bell, Texans, Henderson

Browns GM John Dorsey never expected to end up in Cleveland. When the longtime NFL executive was fired by the Chiefs last June, Dorsey was “blindsided” by the move according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. After four seasons in Kansas City, Dorsey was forced out in what amounted to a power grab by Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

Dorsey helped turn Kansas City around from a 2-14 team to one with a string of playoff appearances in a row, and even won an Executive of the Year Award with the Chiefs. He’ll now be tasked with turning around the Browns in similar fashion, and walked into a GM’s dream scenario with seemingly endless draft picks and young players to develop. Dorsey’s reign will be closely tied to the development of first overall pick Baker Mayfield. Kay Cabot thinks “Dorsey getting fired by the Chiefs may prove to be the the best thing that ever happened to the Browns”, and while there’s still a lot left to prove, things finally seem to be on the right track in Cleveland.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Speaking of the Browns, when their former first round pick Corey Coleman recently signed with the Patriots, it ended up saving the Bills some money according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Buffalo traded for Coleman earlier this season, absorbing all the guarantees left on his contract, but cut him before the season began. Luckily his contract had offset language in it, and the Bills will recoup $592K this year from his deal with New England.
  • More evidence that Le’Veon Bell’s continued absence could hurt his prospects in 2019, as one NFL executive told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN that they see “Bell’s move as disrupting the team-first formula they covet, thus potentially affecting his bottom line” in free agency. Bell is undeniably taking a major gamble, and at this point it seems like he may potentially be seriously harming his open market value.
  • Texans’ offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson‘s season ending injury will cost him financially according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). He was due around $100K in per game active roster bonuses, so the ankle injury will end up costing him about $1.5MM over the course of the season. The players union has reportedly been encouraging agents not to negotiate deals with heavy active roster bonuses, as it essentially punishes players for getting hurt.

Extra Points: Anthem, Kaepernick, Bell

There’s been a lot of talk about the league’s new anthem policy. There was massive controversy earlier this year when it was announced that teams could discipline players, including possibly with suspension, for not standing for the anthem.

It was then reported earlier this week that “moderate” NFL owners were looking for a compromise where discipline would be waived for kneeling players if the players union officially endorsed standing for the anthem. That will apparently not be happening anytime this year, as Adam Schefter of ESPN reports there will be no agreement between the two sides on a new anthem policy this season. Schefter notes that “the new policy is going to be no policy” adding that “too many people have stances too strong to figure out a compromise.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of the anthem, Albert Breer of SI.com writes that there’s been a “wink-wink agreement to drag the talks out a little” between the players and owners in order to “give the “do nothing” solution a test drive.” It’s in line with Schefter’s reporting, and makes sense considering the league just wants the issue to go away at this point.
  • Relatedly, league sources tell Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports that the trial for Colin Kaepernicks’s collusion lawsuit against the league is going to take place at some point before the regular season is over. La Canfora also notes that Kaepernick hasn’t given up on a return to the NFL, and is continuing to work out to stay in playing shape.
  • In the same article, Breer writes that he doesn’t think Le’Veon Bell’s continued absence is smart, noting “most NFL people I talk to aren’t so sure there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow waiting for him.” Breer lists a number of factors, including his age, suspension and injury history, and recent antics as reasons why he doesn’t think Bell will land the payday he’s expecting this offseason.

Steelers Bracing For Lengthy Le’Veon Bell Absence

The Le’Veon Bell saga could end at any time, or it could drag on indefinitely. The Steelers star running back has yet to report to the team and will miss Pittsburgh’s season opener against the Browns today. While there has been speculation that the Steelers could look to trade Bell, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports that the team has no interest in dealing him, and some around the league believe he could return before the end of the month (Twitter link).

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com agrees (via Twitter) that Pittsburgh will not look to trade Bell, though he does not offer a potential timeframe on Bell’s return. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, though, says that team brass is bracing for a lengthy absence of at least four to six weeks, and some within the organization do not believe that Bell will return prior to Week 10 (by returning for Week 10, Bell will be able to preserve his free agent status at the end of the season).

Bell’s teammates, meanwhile, appear perplexed by the situation. Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com tweets that Bell told the Steelers’ offensive lineman that he would be with the team this week, and when he failed to report, the O-lineman called and texted their teammate but could not get a straight answer from him.

2017 third-rounder James Conner will start for the Steelers in Bell’s absence, and while he will surely not be able to replicate Bell’s production, he has the ability to be a quality back in the league and should give the team enough of a threat out of the backfield to keep its offense humming.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bell Won’t Report To Steelers This Week

The Steelers-Le’Veon Bell stalemate will take a significant divergent turn compared to last year’s impasse. Bell will not report to the team on Saturday and will forgo an $853K payment, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

Bell has until 4pm ET to show up, but Schefter adds that deadline will come and go with the two-time All-Pro away from the team. James Conner was already entrenched as the Steelers’ Week 1 starter against the Browns, but Bell being willing to skip a game check adds a layer to this situation.

This process will now carry over into Week 2, when the Steelers are set to host the two-time reigning AFC West champion Chiefs. And if Bell’s on board with bypassing a near-$1MM check this week, it’s obviously in play he’d do so again. Steelers offensive linemen unloaded on the running back this week for his seeming disinterest in his 2018 team’s status compared to his potential position on the 2019 free agent market. The situation plunges into stranger territory now that he’s refused to report before his team’s Cleveland trip.

The early part of the Steelers’ schedule is not as menacing as the back end. The Chiefs are the only 2017 playoff team on the Steelers’ September slate. But the Ravens, viewed by many as the top threat to the Steelers’ AFC North crown this season, are set to visit Pittsburgh in Week 4.

Pittsburgh will not trade Bell, rescind his franchise tag or add money to it. Bell’s agent cryptically voiced concerns about how the Steelers will use his client this season — on the heels of mammoth workloads in 2016 (on a per-game basis) and ’17 — and Bell’s side is showing it means business by extending the player’s absence into the regular season.

Mike Tomlin said earlier this week he won’t let an agent dictate his game plans, firing back at Adisa Bakari’s comments regarding his client’s high-volume usage rate. But until Bell’s side blinks, Conner will be the Steelers’ top running back.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Won’t Adjust Bell’s 2018 Salary

While the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell are not permitted to discuss a long-term extension until after the regular season concludes, the team would be allowed to increase its star running back’s 2018 payment. However, don’t count on that happening.

The Steelers are not going to set a precedent in this unexplored area by adjusting Bell’s $14.5MM tag price, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com reports (video link), adding they also will not discuss a trade. A trade would in effect thrust another team into Pittsburgh’s place — renting a running back that appears hellbent on doing his best to make it to the 2019 market without too much additional wear and tear from this season.

Bell turned down Steelers contract proposals the past two summers and is now essentially locked into his $14.5MM franchise tender, or a prorated amount of it. He could still report to the Steelers on Saturday, sign his franchise tender and receive the first of his $855K payments. He’s yet to do so.

Pittsburgh could rescind Bell’s tag, make him a free agent now and save $14.5MM. That also will not happen. The Steelers have restructured several veterans’ contracts to make room under the cap this year. They are prepared to carry that $14.5MM salary on this year’s cap sheet.

As the high-profile staring contest continues, James Conner is in line to start against the Browns on Sunday. The Steelers will host the Chiefs in Week 2.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Rumors: Steelers, Vikes, Ravens, Lions

While Le’Veon Bell has given no indication as to when he’ll report to the Steelers, those involved in the matter “estimate” Bell will arrive on Saturday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). That’s far from a declarative report, but showing on Saturday would allow Bell to receive his game check for Pittsburgh’s Week 1 contest, even though he almost certainly won’t play in the game. The Steelers won’t rescind Bell’s franchise tag, which is scheduled to pay him roughly $14.5MM for the 2018 season, nor will they trade the All-Pro running back, per Rapoport. Bell’s agent suggested workload is a concern for the superstar, but head coach Mike Tomlin says he won’t discuss Bell’s projected usage with the latter’s representation, per Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • After years of moonlighting as the Vikings‘ defensive play-caller, head coach Mike Zimmer admits he’s considered handing duties off to coordinator George Edwards, per Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com. However, Zimmer is confident is his ability to make adjustments late in games, and also doesn’t want to constantly second-guess Edwards. “I have a style of how I call a game. George, even though he tries to do it like I do it, I don’t want to tell him, ‘Oh I hate that call’ or ‘You should’ve called this,'” said Zimer. “I don’t think that’s fair to him. If I want something called, I should call it.”
  • Ravens kicker Kaare Vedvik, who was hospitalized with severe head injuries over the weekend, is now visiting the club at its facility, reports Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Vedvik, who had injuries consistent with an assault, was placed on the non-football injury list. Rival teams were reportedly interested in the rookie kicker heading into roster cutdowns, and a trade market could have existed. Vedvik won’t be eligible to play this season, but could compete for a role in 2019 if he’s fully healthy.
  • The Lions didn’t have a single player they cut over the weekend land on another roster via a waiver claim or a free agent signing, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. While that could indicate Detroit made all the correct decisions on Saturday/Sunday, it could also mean the Lions have a weakness at the back of their roster. With that in mind, the Lions and general manager Bob Quinn could make adding depth a priority over the next few weeks.

Steelers Won’t Rescind Le’Veon Bell’s Franchise Tag

Despite his continued absence, the Steelers won’t rescind Le’Veon Bell‘s franchise tag, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

The drama reached new heights yesterday, when many of Bell’s teammates began criticizing him publicly. Several of his offensive linemen chimed in, a situation that is more or less unprecedented in today’s NFL. After yesterday’s fallout, many began to speculate that the Steelers would either rescind the tag, or look to trade Bell, but that’s not true according to Rapoport.

Despite GM Kevin Colbert’s strongly worded statement and the relentless griping from his teammates yesterday, “he’ll play for the Steelers this year. It’s just a question of when” writes Rapoport. While it was reported yesterday that Bell would almost certainly miss Week 1, it appears for now he still will be suiting up for Pittsburgh this season.

Bell missing yesterday’s crucial game-planning practice appeared to be the final straw for his teammates, and they lamented the fact that Bell hasn’t told anybody when he plans on reporting. Bell’s agent when on the radio a bit later in the day, and made clear that Bell’s primary motivation is getting through the season unscathed and entering free agency 100% healthy, even if it means giving up $855K game checks. It’s a risky move by Bell’s camp, and his antics could actually end up hurting his value in free agency.

Either way, it doesn’t sound like this situation will be resolving anytime soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Le’Veon Bell Likely To Miss Week 1

It looks like James Conner is going to move into the Steelers’ starting lineup when they face the Browns on Sunday, and the second-year running back may get a full workload.

Barring something unexpected, Le’Veon Bell is not expected to play in Week 1, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports.

Attached to a $14.5MM franchise tag he’s yet to sign, Bell remains away from the Steelers. He’d reported by this point going into last season’s opener and played in Week 1. However, the running back’s likely voyage to free agency in 2019 appears to have him operating differently going into his sixth season.

The Steelers are at a loss, but they have no plans to rescind Bell’s franchise tag, Fowler reports. No team has rescinded a tag after the start of a training camp since the 2005 Eagles, when they pulled defensive tackle Corey Simon‘s and made him a free agent.

Bell and the Steelers failed to come to an agreement at the past two franchise tag deadlines, and Bell’s agent, Adisa Bakari, said the running back is going to do what is “necessary to protect his value long-term.”

Le’Veon has several years left in football. We know his days in Pittsburgh are precarious at best. We also know how he’s been utilized in the past by the Steelers organization,” Bakari said during an appearance on ESPN’s NFL Live, which followed a Sirius XM interview featuring the agent appearing to cite the Steelers’ old-school usage of his client as a reason Bell is staying away from the team.

That’s nothing to say negative about the Steelers. They had one of the best players to play the position and they used him heavily for the production he can provide, but in doing so you take away from his future years.”

This puts the two-time reigning AFC North champions in a strange spot, as they’d like to have the services of their longtime running back. But the sides’ failure to agree to terms in July may have major in-season ramifications. The tougher part of Pittsburgh’s schedule looks to be the second half, with Patriots, Jaguars, Chargers and Saints games slated for November and December. But the Steelers do play the Chiefs in Week 2 and may have to do so without Bell.

A third-round pick out of Pitt last year, Conner averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 32 totes as a rookie.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Workload A Concern For Le’Veon Bell?

Le’Veon Bell‘s usage rate over the past two seasons has dwarfed every other running back’s, making it somewhat curious the 26-year-old All-Pro would chance trying to go through another high-volume season without a long-term contract.

He may not be. Bell’s agent, Adisa Bakari, said in a Sirius XM interview Wednesday (via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Bell is interested in making it to the 2019 free agent market without the wear and tear of another 400-touch season.

I’m not going to discuss our plan publicly, but if you’re Kevin Colbert and you’re Mike Tomlin, and you have a once-in-a-generation type of player for one more season, what would your plan be? You can read in between those lines,” Bakari said.

Bakari’s likely hinting at the presumed plan of the Steelers running their workhorse back ragged, with his presumptive Pittsburgh departure coming in March. That said, Bell put himself in this position by not agreeing to a deal at the franchise tag deadline.

Bell led the NFL with 406 touches last season and paced the league in 2016 on a per-game basis, averaging 28 in his 12-game season — nearly five more touches per game than David Johnson, second in this category, racked up that year. However, it’s unclear how Bell and Bakari plan to coax the Steelers into limiting the sixth-year back’s workload this season if/when he returns. This sets up conflicting agendas for a team that’s running out of time in its hopes to win a Super Bowl with its historically dominant skill-position duo of Bell and Antonio Brown.

Bell said after another tag deadline came and went without a deal that he would report to the Steelers before Week 1 “unless something exceptional happens.” Bakari said today “something exceptional” has occurred. It’s unclear what, in fact, has transpired. But Bell remains estranged from his team as the league’s last holdout. Mike Tomlin said (via ohio.com’s Nate Ulrich, on Twitter) he’d cross the Bell-usage bridge when that became relevant.

Nevertheless, Bakari said the Bell camp remains intent on making this a dominant season.

I said Le’Veon has every intention to make this the best season of his career. That has not changed,” the agent said (via Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com, on Twitter). “That’s his intention, to make this the best statistical season of his career.”

The Steeler back can hold out until Week 10 before a November 13 deadline looms regarding his playing status in 2018, but he would lose $853K for every week he misses. Having accumulated 1,229 carries through five years, Bell would be an unusual free agent hoping to cash in. Teams could well view him as a diminished commodity as a free agent, which would hurt his chances of signing for Todd Gurley-type money.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Le’Veon Bell Absent Again Wednesday

Another day has came and went and Le’Veon Bell still hasn’t reported to the Steelers facility. Although many had speculated that Wednesday would be the day Bell showed up, that wasn’t the case according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

There were rumors that Bell would report on Labor Day, but Wednesday always seemed the most likely. Wednesday is the most important practice day of the week, when preparation for Sunday’s game really ramps up. As of now, it would seem difficult to imagine Bell playing against the Browns on Sunday without being there for today’s meetings and practice.

Ross Tucker of The Athletic tweeted that “from a strictly business perspective” it would make sense for Bell to avoid reporting until Friday or Saturday, ensuring that the Steelers would be forced to make him inactive for the game but avoid missing out on the $855K game check.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette followed up with a tweet pointing out if the Steelers “get a roster exemption, they don’t have to pay him. Up to them.” While it seems unlikely the Steelers would do that and risk alienating the star even further, it’s a definite possibility and one Bell’s camp must be considering, especially in the wake of Steelers GM Kevin Colbert‘s unusual statement released Monday.

We should know more on the situation soon, but as of right now it doesn’t look like Bell will be playing Week 1. Rapoport did tweet that “players have until 4 pm Saturday to show up to be able to play on Sunday. For what it’s worth”, but it would be nearly unprecedented for Bell to report the day before a game and be able to play.