UPDATE (1:45 p.m. ET): The Bell buzz is picking up speed, as multiple reports indicate that he could be down to a couple of different teams. Or maybe there’s only one team in on Bell. Or maybe no teams are in on Bell. That’s only half a joke. Let’s break down some of the rumors that are circulating right now.
First up is Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, who reports that the Jets made their “final and best offer” to Bell and are essentially competing with the Ravens in order to land Bell’s services. Basically, Baltimore is asking him to choose spite over cash. Good luck with that, although sticking it to the Steelers twice a year would be pretty incredible.
CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, however, hears the Ravens are not in on Bell as of Tuesday afternoon. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports the same, noting that it may be Bell’s agent pushing the Ravens as a possible landing spot for Bell in order to drive up the price the Jets are willing to pay for Bell’s services. That’s a pretty common negotiation practice in the world of NFL free agency.
Couple this news with a report from Connor Hughes of The Athletic reports that the Jets have told Bell he has a deadline to accept their deal, and it’s very possible they don’t believe he has an offer from the Ravens either and want to see if he’ll play chicken with a market that could potentially dry up.
Reports aside, have the Ravens ever made a crazy big splash when it comes to skill position guys in free agency? It’s not usually their M.O. and although landing Bell would be a shot across the bow of the Steelers in that rivalry, they do have plenty of other concerns.
There is some more chatter out there about the Raiders too. Matt Verderame of Fansided.com reports that the Raiders are close to a deal with Bell, while Michael Gelhken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes that it would not be surprising to see the Raiders make another splash in free agency on offense. Gelhken also reports the Raiders have been monitoring Bell’s market.
There announced a party for Tuesday night with A GAMBLING THEME, which led everyone to assume he would be going to the Raiders, since they’re going to Las Vegas., thanks in large part to the presence of Antonio Brown, the general unpredictability of Jon Gruden and the cash available to the Raiders. Also, Bell
The Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes has been a cool effort so far in free agency, with no buzz about the former Steelers running back on Monday. That’s starting to change on Tuesday, with Bell’s name being mentioned amongst a number of different teams, as “several suitors” are reportedly pursuing the star running back.
Bell, who sat out all of 2018 after the Steelers franchise tagged him for the second year in a row, wants to command a monster deal, and with multiple teams in pursuit of his services, he should be able to do just that.
One team that won’t be involved in the process? The Colts, who are not chasing Bell according to a report from Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Indy has more cap space than anyone in the NFL — over $93 million heading into free agency — but GM Chris Ballard made it pretty clear during the combine that he didn’t view a guy like Bell as a fit for the Indianapolis locker room.
The Colts were one of six teams listed by ESPN’s Josina Anderson on television when discussing Bell’s possible landing spots on Tuesday, mentioning the Jets, Colts, Ravens, Packers, Texans and Bills as teams that could end up signing Bell.
Peter King of NBC Sports confirms the presence of “several suitors” for Bell, but also noted he would be extremely surprised if the Ravens were the top team in terms of money offered to Bell.
Presumably if the Ravens were to land Bell, it would be partially for him to extract revenge on the Steelers, who he would play twice a year if he was in Baltimore. The idea of Bell taking less money just to destroy the Steelers multiple times per season is pretty outstanding just in terms of its pure pettiness.
Bell previously tweeted that he’s struggling with the decisions, leading many to wonder who might be looking at signing him.
The Packers and Texans would be the more surprising teams on that list of suitors for Bell. The Packers have been making it rain in free agency already this offseason, signing multiple players on the defensive side of the ball, including former Ravens pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, Bears safety Adrian Amos and Redskins pass rusher Preston Smith. Green Bay isn’t messing around and might be willing to just shove all in on this coming season and the late years of Aaron Rodgers‘ prime. Adding Bell in Green Bay would be wild. It feels far-fetched but this is a new front office.
Houston has defensive needs to fill after losing several players (Tyrann Mathieu, Kareem Jackson, Kevin Johnson) in the early stages of free agency and certainly needs to work on the offensive line, but Bell and Deshaun Watson would be a delight to watch. Bell would also ease the burden on the offensive line with his receiving prowess. Maybe Bill O’Brien could stop running Watson near the goal line too.
And I think you could add the Bills to a surprising team as well, considering they just signed Frank Gore to a one-year, $2 million deal, fortifying their backfield which already featured LeSean McCoy (30 years old). What Buffalo needs is more running backs!
My guess is it comes down to the Jets and Ravens, with the Jets willing to outspend Baltimore by a decent amount. Don’t sleep on Oakland or San Francisco swooping in as a potential mystery team here, but the smart money still remains on New York to make a big, splashy play for another free agent to help out Sam Darnold as the front office continues to feel pressure to win right now.