The Pittsburgh Steelers made it official on Wednesday. Le’Veon Bell will be an unrestricted free agent once the new league starts on March 13.
“Le’Veon is still a great player,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “We can’t afford to use any other type of tags. Le’Veon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year.”
That settles that.
Now that we know Bell will be available to any team that wants him and has the cash to make him an offer he can’t refuse, it’s time to dive into which teams should make that move. Here are the six that make the most sense.
With the most cap space of any team in the league heading into free agency, the Colts are an obvious choice here. Those who oppose this move will point to the emergence of Marlon Mack last year. However, nobody knows if Mack is a flash in the pan, and there’s no doubt that Bell is a huge upgrade, regardless. Putting Bell into the same backfield as Andrew Luck, in the offense Frank Reich runs, would give the Colts an incredible balance that would make them extremely difficult to stop.
San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan’s offense is tailored around running backs who can catch the ball and who excel in zone schemes. Le’Veon Bell is the best dual-threat running back in the league by far. He has hauled in 312 receptions in just five seasons. And his ability to weave through even the smallest openings created by his offensive line is legendary. San Francisco has cash to spend, and it has an emerging offense that should explode with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo.
New York Jets
There’s no better way to help develop a young quarterback than by teaming him up with a dynamic dual-threat running back. Sam Darnold would greatly benefit from having Bell in the backfield with him. Both as a runner and as a bail-out receiver, Bell would help insulate the second-year quarterback and give the Jets a needed boost in terms of pure offensive talent. Plus, New York has nearly as much cap space to work with as Indianapolis and is favored to land the star running back.
Sure, the Texans already have Lamar Miller, and he had some huge runs last year. However, Miller isn’t exactly a bell cow, and the Texans would thrive by giving the offense one of the best 1-2 punches at running back in the league. Just imagine Deshaun Watson, Bell, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee on the field at the same time. Then pick your tongue off the floor.
The Raiders almost certainly will not welcome back Marshawn Lynch in 2019. They have Jalen Richard on the roster, but he’s a complementary back, not a bell cow. Jon Gruden could do so much with a back of Bell’s caliber — he’d open everything up for Oakland’s offense. Plus, the Raiders have money to spend and desperately need to spice things up as they head to Las Vegas in 2020.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers don’t have as much to spend as the other teams on this list. But you don’t have to have a huge imagination to realize just how dangerous Green Bay’s offense would be with Bell sharing the backfield with legendary gunslinger Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have been struggling to find a consistent, effective running back since Eddie Lacy gained weight and lost his mojo. Needless to say, Bell would give them that, and so much more.