After a season long contract dispute, Le’Veon Bell is no longer eligible to play the remainder of the season and will become a Free Agent come the off-season.
Attention now turns to which team will be able to land the star running back, who entered the season considered one of the best, if not the best, in the league.
Jacob Blangsted-Barnor looks at his possible next destinations.
When looking at potential landing spots, there are 3 main factors to consider:
1. Cap Space – Can the team afford Bell? Bell turned down a large contract with the Steelers as he wasn’t getting paid like the offensive weapon that he is, especially in terms of guaranteed money, and instead being valued off the back off an undervalued positional group. Therefore whichever team lands Bell will need to have the cap space to entertain such a contract. Teams with rookie QB contracts are therefore sat in a great spot.
2. Long Term Success – Having played in Pittsburgh, a perennial contender, for his entire of his career, you have to imagine Bell will want to continue to be on a contending team. While the teams with cap space generally aren’t the top teams for obvious reasons, it’s important that they can convince Bell that they are heading in that direction and that possible he is the missing piece in becoming that contender.
3. Location – Fans often forget that players lead real lives off the field and where you play can have a massive effect on this, former Packers players have said that living in Green Bay means there is nothing to do but football, this can be a good thing for some players but others get too bored, so you have to consider location when you will have the options that Bell will.
The market to sign Le'Veon Bell
Projected 2019 Cap Space: $106 Million
We start with a team that definitely satisfies the first of our criteria, with rookie Sam Darnold under center, and very few star players, the Jets have plenty of cap space. So they could certainly afford Bell, however would they be able to convince him they are going places? If Bell likes what he has seen from Darnold then it may be an easy sell but a sticking point could be that Head Coach Todd Bowles looks unlikely to stay so Bell would have to buy into the new coach to pick them over a team with a stable coaching staff. New York often attract veterans who want to live and play there for its city but also playing in a huge sports market.
Projected 2019 Cap Space: $79 Million
Having traded away the team’s 2 biggest Non-QB players, Khalil Mack & Amari Cooper, the team couldn’t be more in rebuild mode if they wore Lego stickers on the side of their helmet. This means they have the cap space, and the draft picks to rebuild, but will they be able to convince Bell they are on the right track to become a contender? I also worry about whether Bell and Gruden may clash, Gruden showed he is ready to get rid of any players he doesn’t agree with when he immediately got rid of Marquette King upon his arrival. The final factor is hard to call, with the team moving to Las Vegas, it’s hard to know whether players will be attracted to Vegas or see it as a massive distraction.
Projected 2019 Cap Space: $123 Million
The Colts have a great combination of the most projected cap space, a QB in Andrew Luck who is returning to his pre-injury form, making a run to become a contender and despite a decent run game this season, there is certainly a hole for a top back like Bell. This is a team that could make a real play for Bell in a division that is lacking a standout team, Bell could be the player to elevate the Colts to that level. Just to add some fuel to this fire, Bell commented “Just Imagine” on an NFL Instagram post about Andrew Luck, indicating he would very much be interested in joining Luck in the backfield.
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Projected 2019 Cap Space: $42 Million
The Packers might not have quite as much cash to throw around as the top 2 teams in the betting, but they can more than make up for that in their status as a team, despite a poor season a Green Bay offense adding Le’Veon Bell would make them an immediate contender. The offense is amongst the easiest to sell to Bell in the league, lining up alongside Aaron Rodgers in the backfield would tempt almost any running back. As it was alluded to before, Green Bay might not be most fun place to live in the world for players but perhaps this could be a good thing, no distractions to concentrate on football. They would need to shuffle round but the Packers could afford Bell if they wanted and if Head Coach Mike McCarthy is on his way out then they would also need Bell to buy into the new coach much like at the Jets, you can’t help but feel the new coach would have an easier job turning the team around.
Projected 2019 Cap Space: $63 Million
It might seem counterintuitive, after saying that teams with rookie QBs will be best placed to land Bell cap space wise, to say that a team that made Jimmy Garoppolo the highest paid player in the NFL at the time he signed the contract could be in play for what will be the highest paid running back. Even more surprising could be the fact they overpaid for Jerick McKinnon, a running back who didn’t even get chance to play a snap after he tore his ACL on the final play of practise in the off-season. However, McKinnon’s contract is structured so that they can get away without too much dead money and they still have significant cap space. Shanahan made Davonta Freeman into a star and fans could only dream of what he could do with a back like Bell.