Was LeVeon Bell's threat just a cruel April Fools Day prank (hint: it was)

Le’Veon Bell Tweets Threat To Sit Out Season – April Fools Joke Or No?

Star running back Le’Veon Bell made it known on Saturday that he has absolutely zero intention of playing in 2017 if he’s under a franchise tag. The Pittsburgh Steelers player took to Twitter to let everyone know how serious he is.

The only problem with the threat is that he chose to deliver it on April 1st; you know, April Fools’ Day.

Le’Veon Bell took to Twitter again seven hours later to reiterate his threat, saying “lol everybody think this a joke…ok,” capping it off with an okay emoji.

It’s not surprising that Bell felt he had to confirm what he was saying. Some of the reactions from fans across Twitter weren’t very supportive, considering the date that Le’Veon made the threat.

Why Do NFL Players Hate the Franchise Tag?

The franchise tag boils down to one thing. It’s a power play by a team who doesn’t want to lose a star player to another team, especially a conference rival, or even worse, a division rival. When a player like Le’Veon Bell is eligible to enter free agency, their current team can slap the franchise tag on them. This tag prevents them from entering free agency and seeking an unrestricted contract with another team.

There are two types of franchise tags: exclusive and non-exclusive. An exclusive tag means that the player cannot negotiate with any other team. A non-exclusive means that the player can negotiate with another team and field offers. However, their current team has the option of matching the offer. And in the case where they choose not to match the offer, they get two first-round draft picks as a trade-off.

So why do players like Le’Veon Bell hate getting the tag? There are two reasons. First, they don’t get paid what they’re really worth. A franchise player is only guaranteed to get paid the average of the top five salaries in the NFL for their position. In some cases, the team will make a better offer, hoping to keep their player happy.

No Franchise Tag, warns Steelers star running back Leveon Bell
Le’Veon Bell (26) shows his moves in a game with division rival Chiefs. [Image by Charlie Riedel/AP Images]

Le’Veon Bell has a current salary of $12.12 million on the table with the franchise tag. While that would make him the highest paid NFL running back by a long shot (the current highest paid is Buffalo Bills RB LeSean McCoy with an average $8.01 million annual salary), the reason he still hates the franchise tag boils down to reason number 2.

Franchise tags only guarantee a salary for a year. And therein lies the danger and the seeming disrespectfulness of a franchise tag, at least from a players perspective. For a game-changing running back like Bell, getting a multi-year contract is the goal.

A contract like provides security in case something goes wrong. And for a running back who has already undergone surgery for MCL and PCL repair as well as a groin and core injury, that security is essential. After all, Bell has missed 14 games in the last two seasons due to injuries, which explains the Steeler’s reluctance to offer him a lucrative multi-year contract.

Le’Veon Bell’s Performance

Bell shot out of college as one of the best running backs in the 2013 draft season. He was drafted by the Steelers in the second round as the 48th overall pick and signed to a four-year $4.12 million contract.

He stumbled a bit out of the gate in his rookie season, injuring his foot and missing the first three games of the 2013 season. Despite that, he still set the record for the Steelers for the most scrimmage yards by a rookie. In 2014, however, he exploded, setting two Steeler records: most yards and most receptions with 1,361 and 83, respectively. Then 2015 saw his MCL injury that ended his season in the sixth week, forcing him to miss 10 games. In 2016, despite missing four games, he racked up an amazing 1,268 yards and 75 receptions/616 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

Whether Le’Veon Bell is truly serious about sitting out the 2017 season remains to be seen. Bell and the Steelers have until July 15, 2017, to reach a deal. Then we’ll see if this was really an April Fools’ Day joke, or something much more serious.

Le'Veon Bell took to Twitter to threaten to sit out the 2017 season
Le’Veon Bell, consummate prankster. [Image by Matt Slocum/AP Images]

Update: Bell took to Twitter again in the closing hours of April 1 to confirm that this was a huge prank.

[Featured Image by Jeff Lewis/AP Images]

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