Le’Veon Bell has made his thoughts on free agency clear: $60 million “ain’t enough to come run with the Jets.”
Why not speculate endlessly on Bell’s approaching free agency despite the fact he’s likely to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers? So to make things easier on everyone, let’s immediately rule out three teams from this quiz: the Steelers, Jets, and Browns. Bell has said $60 million wouldn’t be enough for him to play in New York and that’s his realistic price range and the Browns…well, Bell’s not that desperate.
Let’s also rule out any teams with an established running back in their prime or a young stud who has had one or two elite seasons so far. In other words, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Rams are all eliminated. That leaves us at 21 teams, and I think it’s safe to rule out the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, and Seattle Seahawks for cap space reasons.
We’ll also take out the Cincinnati Bengals as going there from the Steelers may be worse than going to the Patriots.
That leaves us at 15 teams, starting with the…
15. Would: Denver Broncos
But wait, the Broncos already have C.J. Anderson! If the Broncos have a chance to land Kirk Cousins in free agency, is there a possibility Denver weighs trading Anderson to a team in need of a main running back – the Jets or Seahawks, perhaps? – and signs Bell? I don’t know if that’s a realistic option, but I do think Bell would seriously consider going to Denver if that means he can team up with his ex-college quarterback, Cousins.
This really depends on how aggressive Elway and the Broncos want to be in terms of retooling their offense beyond the quarterback. Is Bell better than Anderson? Sure, without a doubt. Would the Broncos really want to trade one for the other? We’ll leave that up to you – and Madden – to figure out.
14. Wouldn’t: New England Patriots
So if going to Cincinnati is a sin for Pittsburgh Steelers players…well, we know at this point what going to New England is. There is no way Bell is taking that much of a pay cut to go and play for the Patriots, of all teams, and there’s no way he’s doing it after his teammates were so vocal about James Harrison’s departure.
Is winning a championship worth going to the dreaded New England Patriots? Absolutely not.
Of all the teams Bell wouldn’t want to play for on this list for one reason or another, New England is the omega “absolutely not.” Patriots fans are free to do whatever they want in Madden, but as for real life…no chance. There’s a sooner chance of Baker Mayfield going with the No. 1 overall pick.
13. Would: San Francisco 49ers
Had we done this article back in September, the 49ers would have been another “absolutely not” team, but the addition of Jimmy Garoppolo changes things immensely. Carlos Hyde isn’t quite a lock to return next year and the 49ers have been vocal about wanting to contend sooner rather than later, meaning there could be quite an intense pursuit of Bell in free agency. For what its worth, San Francisco has the cap space to make a move and one of the few teams on this list to incentive Bell with a younger quarterback who has already proven himself.
The only downside of Bell going to San Francisco is that the team is technically still in a rebuilding phase, but we saw how much better they looked with Garoppolo under center last fall. Is that enough to woo Bell?
12. Wouldn’t: Los Angeles Chargers
On one hand, I do think Bell would be interested in potentially being the offensive face of the Chargers alongside Hunter Henry (and potentially Keenan Allen) when they move to Inglewood after next season. But what hurts the Chargers’ potential pursuit of Bell isn’t only them already having Melvin Gordon on the roster, but how short their current window to win is with Philip Rivers getting older and the team not having a current quarterback of the future.
Even if the Chargers traded Gordon (a potential option) and took a mid-round quarterback in this year’s draft, which at this point everyone expects them to, I just don’t think there’s enough current incentive for Bell to take a risk by signing with the Chargers. If this was next year, maybe it’d be a different story.
11. Would: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Buccaneers: Alright, Le’Veon, here’s our pitch to you: we have a really talented young quarterback who can be elite in this league, but who we believe has struggled the past two years in his development from not having a reliable running back. We have young receivers who can make plays, but we play in a competitive division and –
Bell: Isn’t Florida a tax-free state?
Buccaneers: Well, yes, but-
Bell: Yeah, I’m fine with that. Oh, and ya’ll are in really good shape to win.
Tax-free states are awesome! Bell would join a Buccaneers team with Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, and a top-10 pick in April’s NFL Draft.
10. Wouldn’t: Minnesota Vikings
The good news for the Minnesota Vikings is that they have a ton of cap space this offseason, but the bad news is they’re going to spend part of that on locking their players long-term. One of the quarterbacks is going to need a new contract, making sure Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are both given new contracts, and all. Minnesota also seems to be high on rising second-year player Dalvin Cook – who was off to a brilliant start before tearing his ACL – so signing Bell to a big-deal would be counterproductive, no?
9. Would: Detroit Lions
Le’Veon Bell is coming home! Well, not really as Detroit isn’t quite Lansing, but it’s still Michigan! While the Lions might have to make a move here or there to clear some more salary, Bell would be crazy to not want to return to the Mitten and have a chance at playing with Matthew Stafford.
Detroit is in desperate need of a franchise running back and signing Bell, even with his slight injury history, would obviously be a vast improvement over anyone else they can acquire this offseason.
The thing that might momentarily scare Bell away is that the Lions’ new head coach, Matt Patricia, is a former Patriots assistant. But if that’s the determining factor in what makes Bell not consider Detroit, he is indeed crazy. Go home, young Bell!
8. Wouldn’t: Green Bay Packers
On one hand, I’m sure Bell would love to play with Aaron Rodgers. But on the other hand, the Packers don’t have the highest cap space this offseason (only roughly $21 million) and cutting players to accommodate what Bell would want in a contract would mean getting rid of the same players who give the Packers a better chance at winning. Bell isn’t the type of player who will take a contract with a team just to make the money if they’re getting rid of key supporting pieces, not after his stint with the Steelers.
As much fun as a Rodgers-Bell pairing would be, too many things would need to work out and I’d imagine both sides may want to stay away from such a move right now. If Bell was looking for a one-year contract, though…
7. Would: Indianapolis Colts
While the Colts are in a rebuilding period, there’s only one reason I could see Bell wanting to play in Indianapolis: the potential of a fully-healthy Andrew Luck. If Bell got a guarantee from new Colts head coach Josh McDaniels that his quarterback next September would be Luck, I do believe Bell would take the money and run.
Indianapolis still has plenty of holes to fix through free agency and the draft, but a healthy Luck is the key to everything – and that’s with all due respect to Jacoby Brissett, of course.
Again, there’s the potential no-no of Bell playing under a former Patriots coach (McDaniels) but that shouldn’t even come up in conversation. The true determining factor, like it or hate it, is Andrew Luck’s health – and if he’s ready to go for the Colts, Bell might feel the same way.
6. Wouldn’t: New York Giants
As for another team who is going through a rebuilding period right now, Bell isn’t going to the New York Giants. Yes, they’re going to need a running back and yes, they have a devastating wide receiver duo when healthy in Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, but you think Bell is passing up going to a winning team for the Giants? New York has no idea what they’re going to do at quarterback next year, they’re caught between win-now and rebuilding, and they don’t have the highest amount of cap space.
5. Would: Oakland Raiders
Let me start off by saying the Raiders would have to work quite a few things around to even think about luring Le’Veon Bell to Oakland/Las Vegas, but I think he’d seriously consider donning the black and silver. Jon Gruden is in town, Derek Carr is an acceptable quarterback, and the defense should be back to strong form after a down year. Is that enough for the Raiders to land Bell? Well…
With currently over $23 million in cap space, the Raiders are going to need to ask themselves if it’s worth freeing up cap space to sign Bell when they have so many other needs.
4. Wouldn’t: Tennessee Titans
Tennessee has the cap space to make this signing happen, but doing so would mean sending Derrick Henry to the bench when the team seems like they want him as their running back of the future. Granted, new Titans coach Mike Vrabel may want to draft his own running back this spring, but Derrick Henry seems assured of the position going forward. If that’s the case, why would the Titans want to sign Bell to a major contract in free agency?
But, who knows in the NFL? Maybe Vrabel trades Henry to the Steelers and Bell decides he wants to link up with the Titans? I think the Alex Smith showed that not every NFL team has a clear and solid grasp of the idea known as logic…
3. Would: Washington Redskins
First, let me clarify my thoughts on the Redskins-Chiefs Alex Smith trade. It’s not the trade for Smith that we’re not fans of, but the four-year contract extension and their handling of the trade to where Kirk Cousins didn’t learn about the move until the following day and cornerback Kendall Fuller – the player to be named later – didn’t find out until he saw it on Twitter! How does that happen?
As for Bell and why he’d want to go to Washington, he’d be playing with a solid quarterback in Smith and going to a team with cap space ($36 million) and a need for a franchise running back in a winnable division. This move could work. Will it work? Who knows in the NFL? But don’t rule out Bell to the Redskins just yet.
2. Wouldn’t: Buffalo Bills
While the Buffalo Bills may change up their running back core this spring and cut LeSean McCoy to save cap space, I just don’t see Bell signing with a team that has an in-flux quarterback situation and cut so many veterans last year seemingly without warning. Buffalo has some cap space ($31 million) and could add more to that number by parting ways with McCoy, but why would Bell want to go and play for the Bills?
For what it’s worth, I do think Bell would have slightly more incentive to play in Buffalo if the team had a clear plan outlined, but who knows?
1. Would: Houston Texans
For this to work, Houston would have to get rid of Lamar Miller or even convince him to take a pay cut. If the new front office can convince Miller to do that, then maybe this could work out.
Bell would be playing with an explosive young quarterback in Deshaun Watson, an elite wideout in DeAndre Hopkins, and the Texans’ defense obviously speaks for itself if everyone comes back next year healthy.
Le’Veon Bell going from the Steelers to the Texans – or really, any of these other teams – would certainly catch the league by surprise, but that’s the fun of these hypotheticals.
Come March, Bell could very well re-sign with the Steelers, be in the running for the Madden cover, and we’ll all act like this never happened.
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