Le’Veon Bell is set to his free agency and the Pittsburgh Steelers are dangerously close to spurning one of the NFL’s most dynamic offensive weapons. Bell has hinted at possibly retiring, there have been whispers he could head to the Raiders and he’s an elite running back that wants a ton of cash.
Recent reports do suggest the two sides have gotten “a lot closer” than they were a year ago, so there is understandably some optimism:
Bell also said that Steelers already presented him with extension offer and he said they are lot closer than last year. @TheAthleticPIT
— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) January 24, 2018
The news is coming straight from Bell, too, which makes it fairly believable that a deal will ultimately get done.
And a deal should get done. The Steelers wouldn’t be the same team without arguably the NFL’s best running back and he deserves to get paid. However, it’s interesting to think about what would happen if Bell didn’t stay in Pittsburgh and where he’d go if that happened.
After all, Bell would be far from the first star NFL player to dip town and go play elsewhere. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the three most realistic Le’Veon Bell suitors, should he escape via free agency:
This sounds silly after seeing what a mess the Colts were last year, but with a healthy Andrew Luck back and Josh McDaniels running the offense, Indy could quickly bounce back. It’s amazing what a difference a year can make and the same can be said for having a stud running back, as opposed to not having one.
The Colts have some talent on both sides of the ball, but will be looking for a way out of their current engagement with an aging Frank Gore – one would think. If Gore is out the door and the Colts (who have loads of salary cap space) offer a pricey deal, Bell would at least have to think about.
San Francisco 49ers
Perhaps an even better spot might reside in the NFC West, where the rising 49ers offer rich tradition, Jimmy Garoppolo and a fun offense. Carlos Hyde is joining Bell in free agency this offseason and there have been signs pointing to his exit for a while now.
The Niners are another team with a ton of cash to spend and they’ll understandably want to get Jimmy G all the weapons he can handle. Loading up with a franchise passer and the best rusher in the league would instantly put the historic Niners back on the map.
Another option, depending on just how annoyed Bell becomes with the Steelers, is jumping ship for an AFC North rival. Bell has had many a career outing against the hapless Browns, but what would be better than going to Cleveland and becoming their savior?
The Browns have won one of their last 32 games, but this would make for one heck of a story. Cleveland has nothing to lose by offering Bell all of the money, as they could use the running back upgrade and they have the second most cash available in the entire league.
With a franchise passer coming in the draft, Todd Haley bringing a familiar offense into town and cash awaiting him, this actually could be a situation Bell has to think about.
Ultimately, Bell isn’t going anywhere and it’s obvious these aren’t his only potential destinations. If the money is right, pretty much everyone is fair game, especially if Bell really feels disrespected by Pittsburgh. Still, there is tradition in Pittsburgh, they’re close to competing for a title and he can still get paid here.
There’s little reason to mess all of that up just for a few extra bucks. I fully expect the Steelers to pay up, but all the chatter involving the Raiders, Seahawks and pretty much any other NFL team sure is interesting. Welcome to the NFL offseason, folks.