Le’Veon Bell is now officially a free agent after Pittsburgh Steelers Kevin Colbert said on Wednesday that they will not place any kind of tag on Bell.
There had been speculation the Steelers could possibly place the transition tag on Bell, giving them the right to match any offer another team made and receiving draft-pick compensation from that team should the Steelers not match the offer. Well, that is not happening.
Colbert told reporters: "Le'Veon is still a great player. We can't afford to use any other type of tags. Le'Veon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year."
So where will Bell land?
He sure would look good in an Eagles uniform.
In order for that to happen, though, the Eagles would need to find all kinds of money. Bell is reportedly looking for about $50 million in the first two years of any contract he would consider signing. That would make him the highest paid running back ever, surpassing that of Rams runner Todd Gurley, who signed a four-year, $60 million extension last summer that included $45 million guaranteed.
The best offer Pittsburgh reportedly made Bell was a five-year, $70 million deal that included $17 million guaranteed.
Right now, the Eagles are a cash-poor team, sitting at about $16 million over the salary cap. To get under the cap enough to give them flexibility to sign Bell and some others, they would have some difficult decisions to make.
Bell, just recently turned 27, would absolutely make those decisions easier.
Prior to sitting out the 2018 season, he ran for 2,559 yards and 16 touchdowns combined in 2016 and 2017. Through the air, he made 160 catches for 1,271 yards.
Who wouldn’t want that kind of production on a team that could certainly use a running game that can be counted on to alleviate some of the pressure on quarterback Caron Wentz feeling like he has to do it all?
Adding Bell would require more than money, though.
It would require an organizational shift in philosophy from a running back by committee to one sturdy stud. It would also force the team away from its belief that a reliable runner can be found later in the draft.
Since selecting LeSean McCoy in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Eagles have drafted five running backs. None of them came in the first three rounds.
Charles Scott, 6th round
Stanley Havili, 7th round
Bryce Brown, 7th round
Wendell Smallwood, 5th round
Donnel Pumphrey, 4th round
Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman grew up in an organization that never made running back a high-priority. Hired as a 25-year-old in 2000 to handle salary cap issues, Roseman has seen the team make these draft decisions regarding runners:
Thomas Hamner, 6th round
Correll Buckhalter, 4th round
Brian Westbrook, 3rd round
Bruce Perry, 7th round
Tony Hunt, Third round
Nate Ilaoa, 7th round
Then came McCoy in ’09 and the subsequent years.
Now, the Eagles could spend one of their first three picks on a runner in the draft – either in the first round or with one of their two second-rounders. One mock draft I have seen has them taking Alabama RB Josh Jacobs with the 25th overall selection.
That early selection doesn’t jibe with what the Eagles have done in this century, though.
So the answer to their running back quandary is Bell or someone else.
Mark Ingram or Tevin Coleman would be nice consolation prizes, but Bell would be the show stopper and the Eagles should give every consideration possible to making him their top target.