10. San Francisco 49ers
Back in late September, the San Francisco 49ers (along with the Jets and Eagles) made brief calls to the Pittsburgh Steelers in regards to trading for Le’Veon Bell. With Jerick McKinnon sidelined with a torn ACL, as well as Matt Breida dealing with injuries of his own, the future of the running game in San Francisco is a mystery.
According to Bell directly, he fully expects for the 49ers to be one of multiple suitors interested in him during free agency. With the third-highest cap space in the league, the only question is whether Bell is willing to potentially split carries with other capable options in the backfield. Bell is seeking a franchise willing to pay him, but the 49ers seem like too much of a gamble right now.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After a year full of disappointment, are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ready to go all in on Le’Veon Bell? Although the offense is actually rated 1st in passing yards and total yards per game, the rushing game is ranked 29th. That being said, perhaps Bell turns this offense into a legitimate threat in the NFC South.
On the other hand, who is the quarterback of the future? There needs to be a sense of assurance that Bell will be relied on, regardless of who is under center. Without that answer, the chances that Bell signs with Tampa Bay this off-season is slim.
8. Philadelphia Eagles
While the Philadelphia Eagles have remained in the mix for the NFC East title, does Bell elevate them to the best offense in the NFC? Carson Wentz has been forced to rely on a committee of running backs, as 4 different backs have seen sufficient time on the field.
The biggest barrier involved is whether Philadelphia would be willing to pool together its future finances in order to secure a player such as Bell. With Alex Smith and Eli Manning aging, and the Cowboys facing financial troubles of their own in the near future, the Eagles don’t necessarily need Bell in order to compete for a division title.
7. Green Bay Packers
In essence, the Green Bay Packers may actually give Le’Veon Bell the best chance at winning a Super Bowl. While Aaron Rodgers isn’t notorious for allowing running backs to steal the spotlight, we never know what coaching staff changes may ensue.
However, due to the lack of free agent spending in the past, it’s difficult to believe Bell will receive his presumed market value with the Packers. Even making $13 million annually would place Bell as the second-highest paid player in Green Bay, behind only Rodgers.
6. New England Patriots
Although the New England Patriots very rarely rely on running backs, could Le’Veon Bell spark a “revival” for the offense? As Tom Brady gets older, the goal should be to keep the pressure off of him as much as possible.
The only downfall in this scenario is that James White is almost identical to the playing style of Bell in terms of the pass-catching game. In saying that, White is a cheaper option, valued at $9.5 million over the next two seasons. Would New England consider Bell the future centerpiece, or is it still the “Patriot Way”?
5. Baltimore Ravens
This would be the sweetest revenge for Bell, leaving from one AFC North team to another. With Alex Collins’ contract set to expire after this season, the Baltimore Ravens could emerge as a serious contender for the running back.
The Ravens offense is managing to stay afloat, but the run game is averaging just 92.7 yards per game. With hardly enough cap space to manage this projected transaction, major off-season transactions would need to come together in order to make this possible.
4. New York Jets
Although the New York Jets don’t appear like an attractive destination for Bell, the future of the AFC East needs to be taken into consideration. Tom Brady is in the twilight stage of his career, which leaves Sam Darnold as the next-most talented option in the division.
The Jets would need to be willing to open up their wallets, and hope that no other franchise matches their offer. I believe the Jets landing at the fourth-greatest odds is appropriate, simply because there is no other “superstar” talent to complement Bell’s play.
3. Cleveland Browns
At one point in time, the Cleveland Browns could be argued for containing the greatest odds at landing Bell. Since then, the coaching staff has been dismantled, the quarterback play has been inconsistent, and the receivers are dropping passes left and right.
Even with the negatives at hand, the Browns still hold great odds to land Bell. The most important aspect to land Bell is cap space, which Cleveland has the most of by over $8 million heading into next off-season. As long as the front office is willing to invest their future in Bell, don’t count them out.
2. Indianapolis Colts
After the Indianapolis Colts have won four straight games, they are starting to make a valuable case for Bell in the off-season. Marlon Mack isn’t necessarily a three-down back quite yet, and the front office holds more than enough cap space to afford Bell.
As long as Luck can stay healthy, I believe the Colts are within contention to land a back such as Bell in the near future. Both Luck and Bell would complement one another greatly, and a new look is needed in the city of Indianapolis before they are considered AFC powerhouses anytime soon.
1. Houston Texans
Out of all the teams projected to invest in Le’Veon Bell, the Houston Texans are the most attractive destination. With elite pieces on the offensive side of the ball, Bell lifts this franchise into Super Bowl contention.
The cap space is there, but Lamar Miller is eating $7.25 million next season. If he is moved, which I believe he will be in the off-season, the Texans will likely land themselves the largest free agent on the market.
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