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Steelers

Former NFL RB says Le'Veon Bell's agent didn't understand franchise-tag rules

Joe Rutter
| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, 12:48 p.m.
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell before playing the Jaguars Saturday, Jan. 14, 2018 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell before playing the Jaguars Saturday, Jan. 14, 2018 at Heinz Field.

A former NFL running back has alleged that Adisa Bakari, the agent for Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, didn’t understand until recently that Bell could receive a franchise-tag tender in excess of $25 million in 2019 even if he does not report this season.

Multiple news outlets, including the Tribune-Review, have reported since September that the Steelers would have to use the third tender amount – essentially the average of the top 5 quarterback salaries – if they wished to apply the franchise tag on Bell next season.

Until recently, however, Bakari apparently thought the Steelers could re-use the second-year tag number of $14.544 million in 2019 if Bell held out the entire 2018 season. That is what former running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who also is represented by Bakari, told host Dave Dameshek on the league-run NFL Podcasts this week.

Jones-Drew confirmed what was first reported Tuesday by The Athletic – that Bakari didn’t have a firm grasp of the collective bargaining agreement procedures.

“Once that came out, there is now digging and reading and trying to understand the language – there’s a lot of language in the CBA, particularly for this particular instance,” Jones-Drew said. “It’s going back now, to sit down and figure out … because if it’s true, Le’Veon doesn’t have to play and he still gets the transition tag, which makes him a free agent, and he gets to go out and negotiate with anyone he wants and the Steelers have the right to match it.”

Because of the $25 million-plus franchise-tag number in 2019, the transition tag would be the more likely scenario for the Steelers if they choose to try to keep Bell. The running back would be free to negotiate with NFL teams, but the Steelers would have the right to match any offer. If the Steelers don’t match the offer, they would receive no compensation.

If the Steelers instead choose to allow Bell to leave in free agency, they would receive a third-round draft pick in 2020 as compensation.

Bell must report to the Steelers by 4 p.m. Tuesday in order to play for them this season. If the deadline passes and Bell hasn’t reported, he is prohibited by NFL rules from playing until 2019.

Bell was spotted at a health club in the North Hills playing pickup basketball earlier in the week. He returned to Pittsburgh from Miami, where he has spent his time while remaining away from the team.

Bell has forfeited $7.7 million of his $14.544 million salary because of his stance.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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