The Pittsburgh Steelers and their uncomfortable situation with star running back Le'Veon Bell took yet another unique turn as of late. With Bell's holdout rolling into the second half of the 2018 NFL season, it's led to speculation about how his future with the team may look. But even going beyond that, the most recent bit of news to come points to his future not likely being with the Steelers.
As things currently stand, Bell's date to return to the team in order to retain eligibility this season is November 13. But regardless of what happens, the Steelers are going to be looking at a lofty price tag if they attempt to franchise tag him for the third time.
It was somewhat of a stunning piece of news brought to light by NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, which states that Bell would be tagged at the quarterback salary number this time. Per NFL.com's Austin Knoblauch:
"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."
As you can see, the expectation is that the Steelers will not opt to fork over the $25 million to Bell, which makes sense. Thanks to the emergence of James Conner, who looks like a clear-cut No. 1 running back at the NFL level, this could result in Bell potentially hitting the free-agent market during the 2019 offseason.
If that were to happen, there could be quite a few potential suitors, but we're going to look at a few teams who may very well make a push for the All-Pro running back.
New York Jets
Why not a shiny new offensive weapon to pair up with quarterback Sam Darnold? The Jets also reportedly had interest in Bell when he was available for trade this season, as Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News revealed.
While the Jets have a few running backs on their roster currently, the situation could actually work out somewhat favorably for the team. Bilal Powell is set to become a free agent this offseason, so they're immediately losing the player expected to be the pass-catching back. Although Powell suffered an injury in 2018, it's tough to envision them bringing him back if Bell is an option.
Beyond that, the Jets could opt to release current starter Isaiah Crowell with $2 million in dead cap. It's a move that would free up $5 million in cap total, resulting in $3 million savings after the dead cap hit. The Jets currently hold the second-most cap space for 2019 at just over $106.6 million, according to Spotrac.
*Note: All salary cap information courtesy of Spotrac.