As teams continue their preparations for the draft, the new league year will begin March 13 with free agency. While there are plenty of big names on the free agent market, all eyes will be on former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Having sat the entire 2018 season, and at age 27, Bell is not only fresh, but very much still in the prime of his career, which will figure to make him the most coveted player on the market. Of course, all 32 teams could use Bell and the skill set he brings to the table; however, here are the five places where Bell’s skills would be maximized.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Hard to believe the number one offense from 2018 could use Le’Veon Bell, but following the release of Kareem Hunt, adding Bell would give the Chiefs a dynamic backfield playmaker once again. As great as Mahomes was in 2018, he still needs weapons. Because Bell is looking for a big payday, the Chiefs would have to get creative to clear enough cap space to pay him; they only have eight million dollars in cap space. As far as coach, quarterback, and offensive system goes, the Chiefs are a perfect fit to maximize Bell’s talent — and the Chiefs give Bell another opportunity to contend for a Super Bowl.
2. Houston Texans: Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports that Texans general manager Brian Gaine endorsed Lamar Miller as the Texans starting running back, but I can’t imagine Houston passing on the opportunity to visit with Bell. While Miller has been pretty good in his time with the Texans, having Le’Veon gives the Texans someone who can shoulder much of the offense, whereas Miller is probably best as a situational back.
A backfield trio of Bell, Miller, and Foreman could be deadly, especially if Foreman can return to form after recovering from an Achilles injury. But questions would then arise of how Bill O’Brien could utilize all three. Would the Texans even take three running backs into the season? Knowing Will Fuller’s injury history, as well as KeKe Coutee’s struggles to stay healthy in his rookie season, the Texans could get creative and shift Lamar Miller to slot receiver. There, Lamar would still be a factor in the offense, and wouldn’t take as much of a beating as a receiver as he does as a running back.
The Texans have the money to pay Bell, with 70 million dollars in cap space. However, with key free agents of their own, and the urgent need to address their offensive line, the Texans may opt not to go after Bell. As with the Chiefs, signing with Houston would present Bell an opportunity to contend, especially with a healthy Deshaun Watson. Houston’s cap situation also means Bell could get the money he desires, if Houston is willing to deal.
3. Indianapolis Colts: A healthy Andrew Luck plus over 100 million dollars in cap space puts the Colts in prime position to contend for years to come. Bell himself has expressed interest in playing alongside Luck in Indianapolis (via Ryan Wilson of CBS); the question is whether the Colts are interested in Bell.
The Colts are a pass heavy offense, leading the NFL in pass attempts with 644, and second in the NFL in passing touchdowns with 39, versus 20th in rushing as well as 16th in rushing touchdowns. Adding Bell alongside Marlon Mack would give the Colts a nice 1-2 punch in the run game and in the short passing game.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: With running back Jay Ajayi recovering from a torn ACL and set to hit the free agent market, if Philadelphia does not bring Ajayi back, they could get into the Bell sweepstakes. Like the Chiefs, the Eagles have one of the worst cap situations in the league. Therefore if the Super Bowl LII Champs decide to give Bell the kind of money he wants, some contractual restructuring or roster cuts will have to be made.
Assuming Ajayi does not return to the Eagles, Philadelphia will need an every-down back to balance the load with Carson Wentz, who once again is returning from a season-ending injury.
5. New York Jets: While the Jets are not immediately in position to contend, they badly need playmakers to support second-year quarterback Sam Darnold. Adding Bell would certainly boost their rebuilding. Off the field, Bell would be thrust into the New York limelight, which he may thoroughly enjoy.
A player the caliber of Le’Veon Bell is not often available on the free agent market. Because of what Bell brings to the table, every team would be wise to make a push for him, knowing the boost he can provide their team. In terms of maximizing his skills and improving a team, the five teams above are a perfect match, on paper.
What Bell has to ask himself when teams start calling is: Where does he truly envision himself playing in 2019?