Week 2 of the NFL season is already here, but Le’Veon Bell is not. Begrudged over his third straight franchise tag from the Steelers, Bell has hidden behind agent Adisa Bakari. As both parties – Bell and the Steelers – seem to be in a stalemate, it is unclear when we will next see No. 28. However, this current condition is costly to both sides. For each week away from the team, Bell loses over $850k, and the Steelers run the risk of losing both winnable games and their team chemistry. So, it seems that the clock is ticking for a deal to be reached.
Bell has made it abundantly clear that he has no intentions of re-signing with the Steelers next season. Now, while he has until Week 10 to report (after that his contract will be deferred until next season), the risk of waiting that long is too high for the Steelers. One possible option for the Steelers to gain immediate success in this prolonged dispute would be to trade Bell. There is always a market in the NFL for star running backs, and even better for Bell, there are many teams that could and would pay him. This situation harkens back to last season when the Patriots decided to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, the stellar backup for Tom Brady, to San Francisco. While this was received with great hostility, especially in the New England community, it was well planned. Garoppolo would most likely not have re-signed with the Patriots. Instead, he would have opted to sign with a team that would make him their starter. As for Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers should try to get as much out of him as they can before he relocates in 2019.
So, who could trade for Bell?
- Green Bay Packers
The Packers are already a loaded team, no doubt, but imagine if they added Bell to their offensive dominance. Scary. The Packers’ biggest weak spot in terms of production, as of now, comes from the running back position. But what is most concerning for the Packers organization is Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers suffered a knee injury in Week 1 against the Bears, forcing him off the field, only to return and lead his team to victory in a wild 4th quarter finale. While, Rodgers managed to play Week 2 against the Vikings, a game which ended in a 29-29 tie, we still do not know the full extent of his injury. Rodgers claims he has a “sprain,” while NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports its much more serious, adding that it could take up to a “couple of months to heal.” Whatever the case, if Rodgers’ knee issue turns out to be more than just that–an “issue”–the Packers will need to find someone to fill the gap on offense. Le’Veon could be what the Packers need to finally push them back into Super Bowl contention. Plus, with the Packers’ great depth, skill, and two first round picks next year, they could make a competitive offer for the elusive Bell.
- Cleveland Browns
The Browns may seem an unlikely place for the skill of Le’Veon Bell, but it is not impossible. The Browns have a lackluster running back corp at the moment with Carlos Hyde, who is averaging less than three yards a carry through the first two weeks of the season, leading that group. Bell’s ability would be welcomed by the Browns’ organization and fan base. But is it realistic? The Browns have the most projected cap space going into next season, meaning that they could afford to pay Le’Veon in the future, something he will surely be happy about. As to trading with the Steelers, the Browns have a score of underdeveloped talent. With so many great draft positions over the past few seasons, the Browns have some young players–like Jaire Alexander, and Nick Chubb–who any organization would have on their radar. If that isn’t enough, the Browns have twelve draft picks in 2019–the most in the league–so a currently winless Pittsburgh could seek a pick or two for themselves. One major problem of this trade, however, is that both teams are in the same division, and I’m sure the Steelers won’t want to play against a vengeful Bell.
- Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are in a period of rebuilding, but with the addition of Le’Veon Bell, their remodeling could be perfected a lot sooner. Currently, the Colts have an atrocious running-back corps, with Marlon Mack being their star – horrendous. Even better, the Colts have the second most cap space in the league, with most of their money going to non-skill players, chiefly on the defense, with the exception of Andrew Luck who is making a handsome $122 million over five years. The Colts would be more than willing to refinance and drop some serious cash on Bell. But what do the Colts have to offer? The Colts have three picks in the first two rounds of the 2019 draft, and with another subpar year, those could be potentially explosive draft spots. Furthermore, the Colts had three picks through two rounds last year, opting to take Quenton Nelson with the six spot, so they have some solid young talent. With James Conner playing outstanding, the Steelers could be looking for more draft picks versus immediate running back threats. With their draft picks and young talent, the Colts could make a potentially lucrative offer.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have been relatively quiet in the trade market over the last couple of years, but a trade for Bell would immediately draw them into the spotlight. General Manager Jason Licht could make the move for Bell pretty soon, especially because the Bucs are playing the Steelers this week! Imagine if Bell’s first game with his new team is at home against his old friends.
This trade is possible too because the Bucs are in need of running back talent. Having Peyton Barber as your starter is not a good look. Bell would be welcomed for sure. Further, Licht could be aiming to ride the team’s momentum as they are now 2-0 with huge wins over the Saints and the Eagles, games in which backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick shined. But, the Harvard grad cannot do it all alone, Barber is averaging fewer than three yards a carry with under 40 touches total this year; Fitzpatrick needs more support from his backfield (or Winston if he gets his job back…). The Bucs are high up in the league in terms of cap space, and they have made deals with Pittsburgh in the past, including a trade for J.J. Wilcox almost a year ago. If the Bucs make a move for Le’Veon this week, MNF at Raymond James Stadium will be the game of the century, and if the Bucs win, it should be near smooth sailing for the rest of the year.
While these teams highlight potential landing spots for Le’Veon, there are a host of others who would be willing to pay or at least try to pay the league’s best back. Such teams could include the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders, and more. But, it is still uncertain as of now, if the Steelers are even considering trading their bitter star. It is possible that both sides will try to ride out this season, and that we will not hear from Bell, until Week 10, when he has to report or he will be forced to endure this whole process again next year. One thing is for certain, the Bell-Steelers dispute has brought a lot more attention back to the NFL, and has spiced up an already exciting season.
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