Le'Veon Bell will be a free agent this offseason. Pittsburgh GM Kevin Colbert confirmed as much today when he said the team would not be using any tags on Bell. The Bell saga has been overshadowed in the last two months by the Antonio Brown nonsense. This decision insures that it doesn’t linger any longer. I advocated last September that they should work out a trade with him, but they did not. Now, he’ll walk away free and clear. The Steelers will no doubt face an impact from losing two all pro type players (assuming Brown is also out), but it seems a necessary excision at this point.
With Bell now on the open market, a few teams should be interested in his services. Yes, running back can be a tough position to invest in as players age. Bell just turned 27, and did not play at all last year so he’s relatively fresh. It’s pretty rare for a running back to sit out a season for non-injury reasons. Ricky Williams walked away at the same age Bell is now and was largely out of the league for three years due to the retirement then his drug suspension; he was productive to age 34. John Riggins sat out the 1980 season in a contract dispute with Washington at age 31; he may have had the best stretch from age 33 to 35 of any running back ever.
Bell is also a major factor in the passing game, which should enhance his value as he ages. He should be productive for several years, and there are some teams who could use him and have the cap space to make a move.
NEW YORK JETS
The New York Jets currently have over $100 million of cap space for 2019. The running game last year was a hodgepodge of Isaiah Crowell, Elijah McGuire, and a 30-year-old Bilal Powell who has struggled to say healthy. A multi-purpose back who can do it all, and help a young 22-year-old QB in Sam Darnold seems like a natural fit. The Jets have to be the top suitor on the list.
The Houston Texans have about $75 million in cap space, so whatever they decide to do with Jadaveon Clowney should not impact the ability to go upgrade the running back position. Lamar Miller turns 28 and the Texans could make a move to upgrade, because they could save about $6 million by cutting Miller and using it toward Bell. The rest of the running back depth chart is devoted to either role players (Alfred Blue) or injury risks you cannot rely on (D’Onta Foreman). Bell makes perfect sense in this offense as a complement to Deshaun Watson.