The 2018 season is now a distant memory, with the 2019 NFL Combine having just taken place and teams looking towards the 2019 season. The major saga throughout the 2018 season centered around Le’Veon Bell and his refusal to sign his franchise tag tender, thus sitting out the entirety of the season. The Steelers found themselves in another off-season saga with Antonio Brown which has seemingly now ended with today’s breaking news linking him with the Oakland Raiders, but here we will focus on where Bell’s potential landing spots are.
New York Jets – $99m Cap Space
To say that the Jets need help on offense would be an understatement. Just a year after trading up to get the 3rd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, they find themselves holding the exact same draft position in the first round of the upcoming draft. However, the first round of this year’s draft class is likely to be dominated by the defensive players so it’s likely that the Jets will look at free agency in plugging the gaps in the offense.
The Jets have the 2nd highest amount of cap space in the league at $99m and they have a need at running back with Isaiah Crowell and Elijah McGuire being uninspiring options. With such a large amount of cap space and if Bell chooses money over potential immediate success, he could be suiting up in a Jets uniform come September. A caveat to this would be the reports about the Jets taking a liking to Tevin Coleman. If they go after him, Bell will not find himself playing at MetLife.
Oakland Raiders – $69.5m Cap Space
The Raiders finished the season not knowing where they will play their home games in 2019; but it now appears they have reached an agreement to stay at the Coliseum until their Las Vegas stadium is built.
On the playing side, this off-season is the first with the combination of new GM Mike Mayock and current head coach Jon Gruden. With the oft mind-boggling decisions that Gruden took regarding personnel last season, you just don’t know what to expect from the Raiders. What we do know is they have a boatload of cap space and three picks in the first round.
They have already made the big move to bring in Antonio Brown from the Steelers with a bargain of a trade and it’s still unknown whether Marshawn Lynch will return for another season. If this does not happen, the Raiders could be willing to splash the cash again on the top free agent running back in the league and build their offense around the two former Pittsburgh stars.
Houston Texans – $68.3m Cap Space
The Texans do not have an immediate need for a running back with Lamar Miller currently holding the reigns at RB1. However, Miller is in a contract year and the front office could decide to get Bell in lieu of Miller hitting free agency in 2020.
In the past two seasons, Miller has just squeezed past 1,100 all-purpose yards per season whereas in Bell they would gain a true dual-threat running back that has surpassed 1,800 all-purpose yards in three seasons, breaking the 2,000-yard barrier in 2014.
Bell would be a significant piece in the Texans offense, with them already having a stud WR in DeAndre Hopkins and a highly talented QB in DeShaun Watson. Combine that with the monstrous J.J Watt and Jadaveon Clowney and the Texans could be very dangerous if Bell finds himself in the Lone Star state.
Indianapolis Colts – $105.8m Cap Space
General Manager Chris Ballard has himself a unique situation this season with a mother-load of cap room to play with. The Colts have the most amount of cap space in the league and they could spend a significant portion of that on the elite talent available in free agency.
The only reason Ballard would target a running back in free agency would be to get an elite player as the Colts already have an impressive young talent in Marlon Mack. For fantasy purposes, Lucas Oil Stadium would be the ideal landing spot for Bell. The other weapons on that offense include ‘The Ghost’ T.Y Hilton, the ‘Comeback Player of the Year’ Andrew Luck and the plethora of tight ends with Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, and Mo-Alie Cox.
This wouldn’t necessarily take productivity away from Bell as he would get a good balance of touches which may result in better yards per touch. However, Chris Ballard has emphasised the need to find guys with the ‘right fit’ in the dressing room. This would lead me to believe that the Colts will pass on him as he could be deemed a disruptive influence in a harmonious locker room.
Buffalo Bills – $77.3m Cap Space
The Bills followed up a playoff-season in 2017 with a complete damp squib in 2018, finishing 6-10 and 3rd in the AFC East. Again, this is a team without the immediate need for a running back, however, both LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory are in contract years.
Shady is a player that appears to be the wrong side of his career bell curve, with injuries and age catching up with him. Buffalo has the 4th highest amount of cap space going into free agency this year and they could do well to pick up Bell this off-season. If this were to happen the 2019 season would predominantly be a time-share between him and McCoy (providing McCoy wasn’t traded) and 2020 Bell would become the bell-cow back.
The rushing potential of this team with Bell would be incredible as Josh Allen has already shown his QB rushing credentials.
For fantasy purposes, Bell landing at either the Texans or Colts would be ideal for dynasty owners as the upside is significant. However, the most likely destinations for Bell would be the Jets or Raiders as they would be the most willing to break the bank for him.
It’s going to be interesting come the start of the tampering period as the running back free agency class this year is pretty good!
By Adil Khan Deshmukh – @dillytoon