“I want to confirm that Le’Veon Bell did not sign his Franchise Tender today and, as a result, he will not be eligible to play football during the 2018 season,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said.
Bell has effectively abandoned $14 million and forfeited his ability to play football during this season. The All-Pro running back did not report to the Steelers facility by 4pm on deadline day. He is preserving his long-term health by not playing this season, despite telling ESPN that he would be playing in 2018. Negotiations between Bell and the Steelers have been rocky since last year when Bell missed training camp before eventually agreeing to a $12.2 million tag.
This year he has missed games after turning down a five-year, $70 million offer because he feels that the guarantee of $17 million was low. The Steelers are mulling over a transition tag worth $14.5 million for the 27-year-old that would allow them to match outside offers or allow him to enter free agency. If he agrees to go somewhere else, the Steelers would receive a mid-round draft pick in compensation.
In his absence, James Conner has captured the imaginations of Steelers fans. Bell’s replacement is third in the NFL in rushing yards, 771, and rushing touchdowns, 10. He also leads the league in 20+ yard runs with 8.