NFL notebook: Steelers clear way for RB Bell to be free agent

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will be an unrestricted free agent as the team will not use a transition or franchise tag on the three-time Pro Bowler, who sat out the entire 2018 season in a contract standoff, general manager Kevin Colbert told reporters Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO – Dec 25, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) carries the ball across the goal line for a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the third quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

“Le’Veon is still a great player. We can’t afford to use any other type of tags,” Colbert said. “Le’Veon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year.”

Bell later tweeted: “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty I am free at last”

Bell, who turned 27 on Monday, has posted three 1,000-yard seasons since entering the league in 2013. He sat last season rather than collect $14.5 million under the franchise tag for a second consecutive season, when a long-term deal with the Steelers could not be reached.

—The Steelers will attempt to trade disgruntled receiver Antonio Brown this offseason, but Colbert told reporters that they will not give away the All-Pro.

After meeting with team president Art Rooney II on Tuesday, Brown announced on Twitter that both sides had decided to part ways. Brown, 30, is due a $2.5 million roster bonus on March 17 and has three years remaining on a five-year, $72.7 million contract extension he signed before the 2017 season.

Colbert told reporters that the Steelers weren’t yet engaged in trade talks, but he expected they would pick up. Still, he said Brown conceivably could return to Pittsburgh if there is no trade that benefits the team. The GM also said Brown will not be allowed to select the team to which he is traded.

—Landon Collins, a three-time Pro Bowl safety, might soon be moving on from the New York Giants, according to a report from ESPN.

Reporter Josina Anderson wrote on Twitter that “Collins cleaned out his locker today at the team facility and said his goodbyes to teammates, coaches and trainers,” presumably not expecting to stay with the team. Collins, a four-year pro, can become an unrestricted free agent when the new NFL year begins March 13.

Later, Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network chimed in, writing that Collins took “personal items” from his locker. According to Garafolo, “He doesn’t expect to be at the facility for a while. Why? The franchise tag he publicly said he doesn’t want. But the smart money remains on Collins with NYG this year.”

—The Seattle Seahawks could use the franchise tag for the first time since 2010 if they can’t agree on a contract with defensive end Frank Clark before the March 5 deadline.

Clark, 25, will become a free agent on March 13 if no agreement is reached and likely would be pursued by many teams. He led the Seahawks with 13 sacks in the regular season, and head coach Pete Carroll said he wants him back.

Clark told The News Tribune in January that he expects to remain with the Seahawks in the upcoming season, if not beyond. Based on the defensive end market, the Seahawks likely would pay Clark — their second-round draft pick in 2015 — at least $15 million a year in a new contract.

—The Oakland Raiders could wind up staying in the city for two more seasons, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Despite a contentious history between the two sides, the Raiders and the Oakland Coliseum Authority resumed negotiations earlier this month, and the Chronicle reported that an announcement about a new, short-term lease could be made in the next two weeks.

The Raiders announced plans to move into a new stadium in Las Vegas before the 2020 season, but their lease to play their home games in Oakland expired at the end of the 2019 season.

—The Chicago Bears are expected to release tight end Dion Sims, who made just four starts in 2018 during a season that was cut short because of concussion issues, the NFL Network reported.

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Sims was scheduled to make $6 million in the final season of his three-year, $18 million contract with the Bears.

Sims, 28, had just two catches for 9 yards in 2018. Regarded more as a blocking tight end, he played in eight games last season and did not see action again after starting in a 41-9 victory on Nov. 4 over the Buffalo Bills.

—Field Level Media

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