Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the prolific running back must sign his franchise tender or sign a one-year deal with the team ahead of the Nov. 13 deadline in order to retain his eligibility for this season. But what comes next for the running back in 2019 regardless of whether he signs the tag or chooses not to play in 2018?
The Steelers could franchise tag Bell for a third time in 2019, but he would be tagged at the quarterback salary number, not the lower number he was tagged at this year, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
"My understanding is the NFL management council and the NFL Players' Association, the parties that negotiated the collective bargaining agreement, are on the same page that if Bell were tagged a third time, whether he shows up this season, whether he sits out the entire year, that tag would be at the higher quarterback number, not the lower number similar to what he would be due under the franchise tag this year," Pelissero said on NFL Up To the Minute on Tuesday. "It would be extremely unlikely for the Steelers to put that higher third franchise tag on Le'Veon Bell. That would set up a scenario where they'd tag him a third time, the number is upwards of $25 million and Bell, if he wanted to, could walk in the day he's tagged, sign it and be owed $25 million for one season."
In addition, the Steelers and the NFL don't plan to argue that his 2018 tag should carry over next year.
"I've been told by both league and team sources that neither the NFL nor the Steelers have any plan to argue that the second tag should carry over, should Le'Veon Bell not play this year," NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala reported. "They are all in agreement that any potential tag would be the third (or the transition)."
It remains to be seen if the Steelers would pursue a transition tag on Bell in 2019 -- a one-year designation the NFLPA might potentially fight depending on the circumstances, Pelissero reported.