Poll: Will Le’Veon Bell Play This Season?

The Le’Veon Bell watch continues. For months, it was expected that the Steelers star running back would report for work by Nov. 13, the deadline for him to sign his franchise tag and play in 2018. However, Bell’s camp only recently confirmed that the running back does not have to show up for work by Tuesday in order to solidify his status as a free agent for next season, which means that Bell could theoretically stay home for the entire season. 

Originally, it was believed the Steelers would have the right to franchise tag Bell again for the same rate as this season if he did not ink his tender by the deadline on Tuesday. As it turns out, the price of the third tag would actually jump to the quarterback level, which would cost upwards of $25MM. The transition tag would technically be in play, but the Steelers are very unlikely to match any offer and such a move would saddle the team with an unnecessary cap hold.

All of this means that Bell can stay at home and preserve his health for free agency, though it would mean losing out on approximately $6MM in salary after already having forfeited $7.7M in game checks. Some say that Bell should get back on the field to prove his commitment to football and reassert himself as one of the game’s best running backs, but the 26-year-old firmly believes that he’ll find a strong market for his services no matter what.

Do you expect Bell to show up by Tuesday to face the Jaguars on Nov. 18? Or do you think Bell will extend his holdout through the end of the season? Click below to cast your vote (link for app users) and back up your choice in the comment section.

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Falcons Sign DE Bruce Irvin

Former Raiders defensive end Bruce Irvin has agreed to a one-year deal with the Falcons, according to a team announcement. The deal reunites Irvin with coach Dan Quinn and gives the veteran a chance at reaching the playoffs this season. 

This was a dream [come] true,” the Atlanta native told Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (on Twitter). “The Patriots and Steelers offered more money, but being able to play for my city and my people, you just can’t put a price on that.”

The Seahawks also tried to sign Irvin, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). But, rather than don his old uniform, Irvin decided to reconnect with the coach who helped mold him into one of the league’s most feared edge rushers.

Irvin’s new deal will pay him $1.5MM for the final eight games of the season, Rapoport adds (on Twitter). He also gets to collect on the full amount of his remaining Raiders salary, giving him a total haul of $9.75MM for 2018.

Irvin, 31, recorded 88 tackles, 8.5 sacks, five pass defenses, three interceptions and two touchdowns in his two seasons under Quinn in Seattle. The former No. 12 overall pick also had some success with the Raiders, but things took a turn this year under new head coach Jon Gruden.

The Raiders’ pass rush has been listless without Khalil Mack leading the charge, and Irvin was not his usual self, despite leading the team with three sacks at the midway point of the season. In his final game with the Raiders, Irvin played only nine snaps.

With the Falcons, Irvin will join a talented pass rush that includes former first-round picks Takkarist McKinley and Vic Beasley. On the whole, it’s a defense that has not been playing up to its potential. The Falcons are among the lowest-ranked defenses in the league and the front seven has registered just 17 sacks on the year.

Because he was released after the trade deadline, Irvin was subject to waivers. He went unclaimed due to his contract which called for him to earn $3.8MM the rest of the way. Naturally, he’ll earn less on his Falcons deal.

Irvin’s first game with the Falcons will come against the Browns on Sunday.

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Latest On Steelers, Le’Veon Bell

The Steelers have not had contact with Le’Veon Bell this week and they do not expect the running back to report in time for Thursday night’s game against the Panthers, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears. Bell’s debut may come on Nov. 18 against the Jaguars, but some uncertainty’s emerged on this front.

Bell must report to the Steelers by Nov. 13 in order to play this season, but contrary to what ESPN and other outlets have previously reported, he does not have to report to the Steelers by a certain date to get an accrued season to become eligible for free agency. Bell already has played the four-plus seasons he needs to become a free agent after the season.

The two-time All-Pro running back has missed out on more than $7MM and could conceivably wind up on the Steelers’ exempt list, which would allow the franchise to pay Bell at its discretion. Now that Bell has already missed out on half of his franchise tag salary ($14.1MM), would be merely sit out the season?

[It] doesn’t make any sense for [Bell] to play now,” a source told ESPN. “If he doesn’t want to play for $14.5MM, why would he want to play for $5MM?

Bell returning would net him millions, but he’s already sacrificed nearly eight figures to stay healthy for free agency. While a return would allow him to minimize his workload, he could still be injured during Pittsburgh’s stretch run and ruin this bold strategy’s purpose in advance of a potential March windfall.

If Bell does not report, the Steelers will have the right to franchise tag him for a third time, but at the rate of a second tag.

Despite his differences with the Steelers, Bell refused to go along with a midseason trade in order to give himself the best opportunity to showcase himself before free agency. It remains to be seen whether that was a smart move. When Bell returns, he may be in a timeshare with his one-time backup, James Conner, and that could hurt his value in the spring.

Even without one of the game’s most talented running backs, the Steelers have looked the part of a contender thanks to Conner’s play. On Sunday, the Steelers improved to 5-2-1 on the year as Conner ran for 107 yards off of 24 carries against the Ravens. His 1,085 yards from scrimmage sit only behind Todd Gurley, who’s played one more game than Conner.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.