Le’Veon Bell may not report by deadline after learning new information

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According to The Athletic, Bell and his camp confirmed that the running back would count as a third-year franchise player in 2019 even if he doesn't sign his $14.5 million tender this season.

Le'Veon Bell has less than a week to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers in order to play this season, but it appears he's still debating signing the franchise tag.

With James Connor has proven his National Football League mettle in Bell's absence, the Steelers are unlikely to offer Bell a one-year $25 million franchise contract next season, meaning he'll be able to test his market value as an unrestricted free agent.

A third franchise tag would be worth more than $20 million, and though the Steelers are unlikely to utilize that tag, one option is the transition tag, which is worth 120 percent of his previous year's salary.

Clearly, based on this report, that doesn't mean he'll be returning to the team.

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Bell must report to the team by Tuesday - Week 11, before the Steelers' matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, Nov. 18) - or he forfeits the season.

The Steelers could use the transition tag on him, which would be worth less than the exclusive franchise tag they used this season. But Bell would still be free to test the market under the transition tag, and even if the Steelers matched any external offers, he'd still get the long-term deal he's wanted all along.

He rushed for 1,291 yards with nine touchdowns over 15 games in 2017 with the Steelers, his fifth year in Pittsburgh.

Bell has played five seasons with Pittsburgh since getting drafted by the organization in the second round in 2013 out of Michigan State.

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