For the last couple of years, one of the biggest stories in the offseason was what the future was going to hold for Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Lately, another soon-to-be former Steeler has been stealing the headline. But with free agency opening up next week, the main story is going to be Bell once again.
Why? Because he is finally going to be free of the Steelers and able to sign with whomever he wants. Who will it be?
We know he wants to get paid first and foremost. So, whoever it is will need to have a healthy amount of cap space. If he can be featured in the offense and on a contender, it would be even better. But he has made it clear that he is going to get paid (so, cap space first).
The following are a list of teams rumored to be interested in acquiring Bell (their odds via BetOnline.ag) and the amount of cap space they have heading into free agency, via Spotrac:
- New York Jets: +500; $99,046,607
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: +550; $1,721,449
- Philadelphia Eagles: +750; $20,365,685
- Houston Texans: +750; $68,351,215
- Baltimore Ravens: +800; $57,614,133
- Indianapolis Colts: +900; $105,818,186
- Oakland Raiders: +1000; $61,054,698
- San Francisco 49ers: +1200; $66,802,230
- Green Bay Packers: +1200; $33,446,842
- Cleveland Browns: +1600; $81,951,965
Tampa Bay could use a reliable running back, but they would have to release too many people that they need to create enough cap space. Philadelphia would be an intriguing option, but cap space will hinder that one as well. It would be interesting to watch Aaron Rodgers work with an elite running back, but when was the last time the Packers went after a big-time free agent?
So, what about all those other teams with loads of cap space?
The Colts have the money, but a move like this is not their style. Cleveland keeps popping up in conversations, but they already have a good running back in Nick Chubb, and it would be smarter for them to spend elsewhere.
Bell made it seem like he may be interested in the Ravens, but the Ravens haven’t made it look like they are all that interested in him. They have released some guys recently and created more space, but there has been no indication the space is to be used to go after Bell.
Deshaun Watson would benefit from having Bell in the backfield in Houston. But he would benefit from a better offensive line even more.
That leaves the Jets, Raiders, and 49ers.
San Francisco has the cap space and the need for a running back. They acquired Jerick McKinnon last year, but he tore an ACL early on. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have been around long enough now for people to start to wonder when they are going to generate any results.
Bell could certainly help them do just that.
The big pull for the Raiders will be the ability to pay him and the willingness the Raiders tend to have to overpay. With the move to Los Vegas coming up, they may be looking to make a big move (although it would make more sense to do so next year).
As for the Jets—they are the favorite for a reason. They have the space to pay Bell what he wants and a history of overpaying veteran running backs. Rather than develop one, they seem to prefer trying to buy one.
To be fair, he would be a good fit for Adam Gase’s offense and could give Sam Darnold’s development a boost. But if he signs with the Jets as expected, it will be all about the money and nothing else.