It seems the Pittsburgh Steelers have now had enough of the Le’Veon Bell drama. The star running back has remained as a holdout since the start of the offseason and there’s no reason to believe he’ll arrive anytime soon.
With his holdout now rolling into Week 3 of the NFL season, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the team is listening to trade offers for Bell.
Obviously, there are quite a few teams who could have interest in Bell, even considering the fact that he’s demanding an incredible contract. Teams with salary cap space will be the focal points of any potential deal, but we’re going to look at things from a few different angles when breaking down the top potential trade partners for Bell.
First, here’s a look at teams currently in a spot to be able to afford Bell’s contract for the rest of the year without making a move, courtesy of ESPN’s Field Yates.
Let’s check out the teams which make the most sense, as well as a few who simply will have a major need for the All-Pro rusher.
New York Jets
The Jets have a solid pass-catching back in Bilal Powell and newly-signed runner in Isaiah Crowell, so it makes little sense, right? Well, Powell is set to become a free agent after this season and Crowell’s deal has a few outs after this season, as Spotrac reveals. The team could part ways with him and suffer $2 million in dead money while freeing up cap space in the process.
Although this would essentially be giving up on a player just signed, talent like Bell doesn’t become available every day. And the idea of pairing the star running back with rookie Sam Darnold to make his life easier has to be appealing.
Per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets have reached out and expressed interest in Bell.
The Colts have been searching far and wide for a running back who can thrive while working with Andrew Luck and the other offensive weapons such as T.Y. Hilton. If the money is available (which it is), Bell could be perfect, assuming the Colts are fine throwing in the towel on their current young runners.
Indianapolis has rookie running back Jordan Wilkins out of Ole Miss who has flashed upside but doesn’t look like an every-down back. He could be a solid complement to Bell, though, assuming Marlon Mack doesn’t stick around.
Mack is another name worth mentioning, although he’s missed two weeks to start the 2018 NFL season. Last year, the fourth-round pick did look good at times but was more effective as a pass-catching back than a runner. Throughout 2017, Mack averaged just 3.8 yards per carry on 93 attempts.
San Francisco 49ers
If the 49ers are sold on Matt Breida as an every-down back, they should spend their money on wide receivers for Jimmy Garoppolo. After all, the 23-year-old has looked good throughout the early stages of 2018 and is set to make less than $650,000 both this season and next, per Over The Cap.
On the point about adding receivers for Garoppolo, though, Bell is one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL. He’s caught 312 passes through 62 career games for 2,660 yards and seven touchdowns. He and Garoppolo could propel the 49ers offense to another level immediately.
49ers running back Matt Breida went down with a scary non-contact injury in Week 3. If he miisses any extended time or the injury is serious, the 49ers likely become the favorites to acquire Bell, even if it’s just for one season.
The big disclaimer? Jerick McKinnon. The 49ers signed him to a four-year, $30 million deal this offseason, but based on the contract structure, the team could actually get out of it without a huge dead cap hit, as Spotrac shows. There are a lot of “if’s” about this situation, but it’s one to monitor, even if Bell is just brought in for one season.
No one seems to want to address the fact that the Raiders virtually have no running backs after the 2018 NFL season. With Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin’s contracts both expiring and Jalen Richard set to be a restricted free agent in 2019, via Spotrac, the team’s options are limited.
Even DeAndre Washington is only under contract for one year beyond that, leaving just undrafted free agent rookie Chris Warren on the roster after next year. While the former Texas back looked good during the 2018 preseason, it wouldn’t be safe to bet on him as an immediate starter this coming season.
Jon Gruden didn’t want to spend money on the defensive side of the ball with Khalil Mack, but we know Chucky loves his offense. Could he get a little crazy and play a role in forking over big money to one of the NFL’s best running backs?