Le'Veon Bell Free Agency Update: Steelers won't use tag on RB, who will become unrestricted FA

The Steelers are going to rid themselves of one major issue causing drama by somewhat surprisingly not using either the franchise tag or transition tag on running back Le'Veon Bell, GM Kevin Colbert said on Wednesday.

It was widely believed Bell could be an easy candidate for the transition tag this offseason, with the Steelers wanting to secure the running back's services for one more season or, more likely, use the transition tag as a method of orchestrating a trade. 

Colbert said the team "can't afford" to use any tags as it moves forward and that he will be an unrestricted free agent when the league year kicks off.

This is a massive victory for Bell and his agent, after a year where the running back refused to show up and play on the franchise tag for the second straight season. The Steelers played chicken with Bell all offseason, ultimately culminating with the back's refusal to report before the season, a move that caught many people in the organization off guard.

Pittsburgh hoped he would show up at some point and even made a late pitch to him that involved the threat/promise of using the transition tag on him this offseason. Bell stood his ground and skipped the whole season, believing he should be free to test the open market. Bell and his agent also found a loophole that would allow Bell to skip the 2018 season and not be punished by the CBA, making it easier for the running back to sit out for the year.

Now he will -- with Pittsburgh not using the transition or franchise tag on him, Bell will be able to sign with any team once the new league year begins. The question will be whether or not he can recoup the lost $14 million he would have received last year on a one-year tender playing for the Steelers. 

Bell will easily be the top free agent running back on the market and could very well end up commanding a massive contract. There are teams who are interested in his services.

The Jets are widely believed to be the top option in that category, but the 49ers and Raiders could certainly come knocking as well.

Running backs have an interesting history on the open market. It hasn't been prudent to sign older backs (27 years or more) to longer deals. Bell might be the exception, as he's a game-changing playmaker who is the best pass-catching running back in the NFL when he's healthy and on the field.

No one has seen him in a while though. Unlike his teammate Antonio Brown, Bell's been keeping quiet throughout the last several months. For the most part anyway.

Bell turned 27 years old just days ago, so he's still in his athletic prime. And now, for the first time in his career, he gets to try and cash in on his contractual freedom as a player. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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