It’s finally official, after a season-long standoff in which he sat out the entire 2018 season, All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell will finally become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year officially opens on Mar.13. The saga that seemed to be dragging on for over two years will finally come to a conclusion.
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert formally announced that the team would not be applying a tag of any designation on the game-breaking running back and will instead elect to let him walk and get nothing in return for him for this upcoming draft and season. However, they will almost assuredly receive a third-round compensatory pick in next year’s draft after Bell signs his lucrative deal with whatever team signs him.
By sitting out all of last season Bell decided to forgo all 14 million of the guaranteed money that he would have received had he played under the one-year franchise tag for a second straight season. This left the door open for the second-year running back James Conner to assume the starting role and he turned that opportunity into a Pro Bowl season making Bell essentially expendable in the eyes of the organization and not worth the continued headache.
Now that he will have a chance to choose where he wants to go play and field offers from the other 31 teams in the league that are willing to meet his contractual as well as monetary demands, lets take look at a few suitors that would likely be landing spots, perfect fits and intriguing but unlikely landing spots.
Likely landing spots:
Indianapolis Colts- After a resurgent season in which they made the playoffs for the first time since 2014, the Colts will enter the new league year with most cap space with over 105 million to spend after constructing their nucleus in last year’s draft. They have a talented, young and inexpensive stable of backs already on the roster, but a player of Bell’s pedigree could put them over the top.
New York Jets- The Jets have the second most cap space in the league with just under 103 million and would like to build offensive juggernaut under new Head Coach Adam Gase and surround their young franchise quarterback Sam Darnold with requisite pieces that he needs to be successful and hopefully challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC East.
Green Bay Packers- The Packers are currently in the middle of the pack, no pun intended, in terms of available cap space so it does not leave the room to make too many splashes in free agency or retain some of their own impending free agents but pairing an all-world talent like two-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers with the multidimensional threat that Bell possess could be lethal and compensate for other deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball.
Houston Texans- While the Texans are in the top 10 in cap space and the sorely need to address their porous offensive line after franchise quarterback Deshawn Watson was the most sacked quarterback in 2018, the free agent offensive linemen market this year is not talent-rich, they will likely look to the draft to fortify that position. Pairing a talent like Le’Veon with the young superstars like Watson and All-Pro receiver Deandre Hopkins would be deadlier than the “Killer Bs” trio that Bell was apart of in Pittsburgh since Watson possess the rare athletic ability at the quarterback position that he never had with Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
Intriguing but highly unlikely:
Baltimore Ravens- While the Ravens just made it in the top 10 in cap space with just under 50 million and will get even more flexibility when the Flacco trade becomes finalized, the combination of Bell and the electrifying Lamar Jackson going into his first full year as the starter in Baltimore’s run-based offense would be absolutely lethal. This is unlikely because the Ravens have several key veteran free agents up for contracts as well as some young cornerstone talents coming up for paydays in the near future.
Kansas City Chiefs- This one would just be the perfect fantasy football team if I ever saw one but is highly unlikely taking into account that the Chiefs don’t have a lot to spend, are already allocating a considerable amount of cap space to that side of the ball already, they have young homegrown players that will be up for contracts in the near future, including last year’s league MVP in Pat Mahomes and the fact that their defense desperately needs to improve after ranking at or near the bottom of the league for the past few seasons.