Throughout the entire holdout process for Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell, there has been the underlying assumption that he has to return at some point this year in order to become a free agent next offseason.
However, Jeremy Fowler and Adam Schefter of ESPN are reporting that Bell doesn’t, in fact, have to report at all this season in order to become a free agent next March because he has already played four-plus years in the league.
Bell does not have to report to the Steelers by a certain date to get an accrued season to become eligible for free agency, contrary to what ESPN and others previously reported. Bell already has played the four-plus seasons he needs to become a free agent after the season.
This changes the entire narrative of the holdout in terms of his availability this season. There is no need for him to even consider returning if his main priority is to stay healthy and be back in line to potentially get a big offer next offseason. There would be no reason from a business standpoint for him to risk injuring himself to play less than a half-season of games.
At that same juncture, if he does truly desire to play he has until Nov. 13 to do so in order to be eligible to play at all. This is where that deadline date comes into play if he does want to take the field in any capacity for the 2018 campaign. If not, he could bypass that entirely and focus on being physically ready for next season.
However, Bell looks to be hinting at being back soon as he took to social media on Monday to state “farewell Miami,” which is where he has been working out and staying in shape during his entire holdout. If anything, this throws another wrinkle in the situation that has remained quite fluid.