11:04am: Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link) says that Bell is not inclined to accept a trade at the moment, and that he remains intent on staying in Pittsburgh and “putting up numbers.” Rapoport adds that the Steelers have not received any firm trade offers at this point, and this report could dampen any trade buzz surrounding Bell, who does not believe a trade would be in his best interests.
08:05am: Although we heard last week that Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell would end his holdout and report to the team during its Week 7 bye, both Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports and Albert Breer of TheMMQB report that Bell has not actually informed his coaches, teammates, or anyone in the Pittsburgh front office of his intentions. As such, the Steelers are continuing to operate as though Bell will not be a part of the team this season.
Both Breer and La Canfora reiterate that the Steelers will continue to try and trade Bell, but the team that represents the most logical fit at this point, the Eagles, still appear to be something of a long shot to pull the trigger on such a deal. Plus, Breer observes that, before Bell can be traded, he would have to sign his franchise tender, which appeared to be a given when Bell announced that he would return to the club in a couple of weeks. But Breer writes that it is not a certainty that Bell will actually sign the tender.
La Canfora notes that the Steelers could place Bell on the exempt list for up to two weeks if and when he does report, and the team seems likely to go that route. The team and Bell’s agent would need to negotiate the terms of that exempt-list stay, which sounds like another difficult conversation between the two parties, but Pittsburgh does not want Bell to get injured before the October 30 trade deadline and blow up his trade market in the process.
Indeed, the Steelers remain hopeful that teams will become more inclined to trade for Bell as the deadline approaches, especially since Pittsburgh is unsure how Bell’s teammates will respond to him and how game-ready Bell will be after missing all of training camp and the preseason and nearly half of the regular season. If Bell does suit up for the Steelers again, he says the team has informed him it intends to use the transition tag on him in the offseason. La Canfora, though, says the team only mentioned the transition tag as a possible tactic and has not even fully discussed the matter internally.
We have discussed the ramifications of a transition tag for Bell over the course of the past week, and as La Canfora details in a separate piece, there could be another fight between the league and the NFLPA if the Steelers were to apply the tag to Bell. Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com believes that, assuming Bell finally gets his long-term deal in free agency this offseason, it would likely be in the neighborhood of a four-year, $48MM pact with incentives or “funny money” to get the total value up to a potential $60MM and hit that $15MM/year mark that Bell is seeking. Fitzgerald also suggests that the contract would need to include around $30MM guaranteed (Twitter links).
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