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Le’Veon Bell a Jet in 2019? Odds for the 9 Teams Chasing the RB

Eric Rosales

by Eric Rosales in NFL Football

Aug 1, 2018 · 4:17 PM PDT

Le'Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers running through contact.
Le'Veon Bell did not report to the Steelers by Tuesday's deadline and is now ineligible to return this year, setting up an interesting offseason for potential suitors. Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire.
  • Where will Le’Veon Bell be playing in 2019?
  • Steelers championship window suddenly shrinking
  • Where does Bell rank among the best running backs in the NFL?

Leave it to Vegas to add a little bit of hot sauce to an already spicy standoff between Le’Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On Tuesday, sportsbooks released their odds on where Bell, the stud running back of the Steelers – entering his sixth season with the only franchise he’s ever known – would be playing after this season.

Contract talks between the two sides have spanned the better part of two seasons. This summer, Bell’s reps and the Steelers could not get to that elusive long-term extension, with the Steelers placing the franchise tag on Bell for the second straight season.

Writing. Meet wall.

Despite Bell assuring everyone he was good to go, this is not an ideal situation.

Then the Los Angeles Rams upped the ante, as they extended running back Todd Gurley to a massive 4-year, $60 million extension with a whopping $40 million in guarantees.

Everything that Bell had been making a case for, summarily shot down by critics and fans alike, was based on the assumption the running back market had dried. It was suddenly hit with a flash flood.

And of course, Bell (reportedly seeking something in the range of $17 million per year) noticed.

It’s not like it’s unwarranted, Bell is clearly among the top backs in football, and has a style that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a running back. His ability to stop and start, coupled with vision, patience, and explosiveness, is going to be a useful trait for a team with a gifted O-line like the Steelers have, or some of the lines that may struggle to create a push.

Over the last three years, Bell is up there among the most productive of the class statistically, and that’s factoring in that he played just six games in 2015 due to a knee injury.

Top Running Backs 2015-2017

Player Rushing Stats Receiving Stats
Le’Veon Bell 695 car, 3,115 yds, 19 TD 184 rec, 1,407 yds, 4 TD
Todd Gurley 786 car, 3,296 yds, 29 TD 128 rec, 1,303 yds, 6 TD
LeSean McCoy 724 car, 3,300 yds, 22 TD 141 rec, 1,096 yds, 5 TD
David Johnson 429 car, 1,843 yds, 24 TD 122 rec, 1,403 yds, 8 TD
Mark Ingram 601 car, 2,936 yds, 24 TD 154 rec, 1,140 yds, 4 TD

Alas, the Steelers have opened training camp, and just like last season, Bell is not there, and likely won’t be there until it starts costing him to not be in attendance. Hmmm, wonder what he might be up to.

Once you’ve consumed this dysfunctional marriage, let’s take a look at some tasty odds.

Where Will Le’Veon Bell Play in 2019-2020?

Team Odds
New York Jets +300
Pittsburgh Steelers +400
Indianapolis Colts +450
Detroit Lions +600
Cleveland Browns +600
Houston Texans +700
Oakland Raiders +900
Arizona Cardinals +1100
Buffalo Bills +1200

Captain Obvious point No. 1: Any team on this list that gets Le’Veon Bell is going to be a better team.

Bell to be the next Barry Sanders in Detroit?

In terms of just pure need of a running back that can help a team immediately, Detroit is desperate to fill a position that hasn’t really been steady since the days of Barry Sanders. Are you freaking kidding me?

Last year, the Lions were dead last in the NFL in rushing, piling up just 1,221 yards for a paltry 3.4 yards per game average. They averaged just 76.3 yards a contest and ran it in just 10 times for a TD. No wonder the team is pass happy!

If you take Bell’s 2017 campaign: 1,291 yards, 9 TDs, to go along with 85 receptions for 655 yards and 2 TDs, he would have rushed for more yards than the trio of Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, and Tion Green (1,003 yards combined), while placing second in receptions and third in receiving yards.

Le’Veon Bell to Replace David Johnson?

Arizona is bottom feeding as well, but their season went kerplunk because their bell-cow back, David Johnson was done in Week 1 with a wrist injury. They put up just 1,386 yards, and 86.8 yards a game on the ground. Now, if Johnson isn’t able to regain his form, there may be an appetite to lock in the game’s premier multi-tool back.

The Real Contenders to Land Bell in 2019

But those two teams are simply the appetizer here, as the top four teams on that list are flush with cap space in 2019. The Jets, Bills, Colts, and Texans each have at least $53 million in cap space or higher, all the way up to the J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!, who are projected to have upwards of $78 million to spend on free agency.

2019 Projected NFL Salary Cap Space

League Rank Team Active Cap Total Cap Cap Sapce
1 New York Jets $108,852,899 $108,852,899 $78,147,101
2 Buffalo Bills $124,428,770 $124,428,770 $62,571,230
5 Indianapolis Colts $129,943,873 $129,943,873 $57,056,127
6 Houston Texans $132,208,613 $133,458,613 $53,541,387
8 Oakland Raiders $145,018,128 $145,018,128 $41,981,872
9 Arizona Cardinals $146,656,515 $146,656,515 $40,343,485
14 Detroit Lions $153,607,098 $153,607,098 $33,392,902
22 Pittsburgh Steelers $173,020,643 $173,020,643 $13,979,357
24 Cleveland Browns $176,433,735 $176,567,213 $10,432,787

*Assumes a $187 million salary cap

This will solve at least one thing: there will be no issue handing out what will be richest deal awarded to a running back in NFL history, topping the recent Gurley extension.

But if he wants to compete for a championship, like he has stated so many times as a member of the Steelers, is this the fit? Sam Darnold is a great prospect, but at this point he’s got as good a chance of being Peyton Manning as he does Ryan Leaf.

Good value comes a few slots down the board, in my opinion, with the Houston Texans. If you believe Deshaun Watson is the real deal, then the addition of Bell, combined with DeAndre Hopkins catching everything within an absurd radius and Will Fuller taking the top off a secondary, makes this an extremely dangerous offense.

Add in a defense that is strong at all points – even if JJ Watt won’t ever be back to his otherworldly dominant form – and this is a team that can really do some damage.

For strict revenge purposes, the Cleveland Browns at +600 are an intriguing club in the mix, as they are the only ones that can offer Bell the opportunity to stick it to his former team twice a season for the duration of his contract. That’s quite a carrot to dangle.

And that would be quite the chip-on-the-shoulder offense with Bell, Baker Mayfield, Josh Gordon, and Jarvis Landry. Wildly explosive too.

Unfortunately, there’s only one sad scenario in place to see the Steelers retain Bell, because another fantastic season by their prized running back and his number will rise.

Take them all the way to the Super Bowl? If the Steelers were worried about dollars and cents now, there is no way they’d budge that number any higher.

For my money, a bet on the Steelers retaining Bell is a bet on Bell suffering a catastrophic injury, the kind that scare all the Brinks trucks away, leaving him in the hands of the Steelers, who would pay slightly higher than any of the prove-it deals that would be thrown his way.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. For now, if you’re a Steelers fan, you’re left with one endgame:

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