Well, as expected, Le’Veon Bell didn’t show up to the Steelers on Tuesday. We won’t know where exactly the star running back will wind up until at least March, but the critics are already talking and the sports experts speculating. Did he overplay his hand, let down his team, and lose out on a $14 million salary for nothing? Will he just be a year older and a year slower come next season? Or will he get a mega-deal for the ages by pursuing a new contract during his upcoming free agency?
Only time will tell – after all, Bell was playing the long game with this move – but we’re going to go ahead and break down a few teams where Le’Veon Bell could be headed next season.
First off, it’ll have to be a team with the spending power and salary cap space to afford Bell, because in his mind, it needs to be an expensive contract to make all this worth it. Second, they need to have a running back-shaped void that needs filling. So who could that be? Here are a few teams to watch.
The New York Jets
The Jets are the leading favorite to take Bell… by far. Their GM says they feel good about the offseason, noting the fact that they plan to do some work in the free agency to add players at key positions. Well, they didn’t spend the money on Kirk Cousins last year and they have $106 million in cap space so they can afford it. And they can be aggressive. Sure, they’ve got Isaiah Crowell as their current starter but they need to make Sam Darnold better than he is, and to do that, they need a star running back. Can they make use of Bell’s talent? Definitely. The Jets are missing a lot, to be fair, but giving the quarterback the ability to run the ball would be great for them. The question is whether they also need upgrades at wide receiver and center in order for Bell to be truly outstanding.
The Oakland Raiders
They look awful. We know it’s a total rebuild year for them, but they do have the money to invest now. The Raiders lack skilled offensive players, particularly at the running back position. They got rid of an expensive Khalil Mack on the defensive side, so why would they want to acquire another expensive player like Bell? Why would they even consider it? Because they’re impatient and want to expedite their rebuild. Or maybe Head Coach Jon Gruden, who has another nine years left on his contract after this season, has plenty of time to wait. It could go either way with this one.
The San Francisco 49ers
Another sorry-looking team from the Bay Area with a ton of money to spend, the 49ers have been plagued with injuries this season. They lost running back Jerick McKinnon to an ACL injury before the season even started, and since then, their depth at running back has become an apparent issue. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be back next season and it’d be great to have a solid running back to pair him with. It would also be fun to see Head Coach Kyle Shanahan – who loves this type of running back – come up with innovative plays for Bell. His explosiveness and dual skills as a runner and receiver make him perfect for the 49ers’ offensive scheme. However, the fact that the very sought-after McKinnon will likely return next season makes this decision a little more difficult for the team.
The Philadelphia Eagles
A running back is one of the key pieces that the Eagles are missing right now. After losing Jay Ajayi to a knee injury recently – he’s unlikely to return this season – many folks are saying this could pave the way for a big trade for Bell. Heck, some thought it might even happen before the mid-season trade deadline. The rumors are swirling, anyway, and the Eagles do need to improve their backfield if they want a return trip to the Super Bowl any time soon. Problem is, the Eagles have a lot of cap commitments already (the second-most in the league) that could get in the way of snagging an expensive Bell.
The Indianapolis Colts
They have $125 million in cap space, a league-best, so they can definitely afford Bell. But the thing is, their current trio of young running backs – Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins – have been performing pretty well, and the Colts might be content watching them continue to improve. But should the team aim for an even better, more multifaceted running back? Do they want to see if they can return to superpower status by pairing a 100% healthy Andrew Luck with a dynamic Le’Veon Bell? That’s the question.
The Baltimore Ravens
There’s speculation that the Ravens could get rid of QB Joe Flacco and make some cap space for new players… if they find that Lamar Jackson (or an unlikely Robert Griffin III?) is a satisfactory replacement. They’ve currently got Alex Collins, Javorius Allen, and Gus Edwards at running back, but they might want a player who’s even tougher to defend that can do some real damage. They’ve also got a new general manager who may want to prove his worth by signing a big-time player like Bell. Either way, they’ll probably have a new quarterback and having Bell to run the ball will only help with that transition.
The Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers and Le’Veon Bell together would be crazy right? The Packers’ have another aggressive general manager who’s not afraid to make moves (see the trades made just before the deadline this season). Their current running backs, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, are solid… but it’s no secret that Rodgers is frustrated with the current lineup and how things are going this season. And Rodgers usually gets his way. In order to maximize their QB’s potential (he’s not getting any younger), why not pair him with arguably the best running back in the league? Imagine trying to defend them. This duo would turn the Packers’ offense into a powerhouse.
Yes, You Can Bet On This…
The oddsmakers are already making bets on this mystery because, well, that’s Vegas, baby! Per BetOnline.ag, here are the top teams they’re leaning towards as Bell’s new home: