Why Le’Veon Bell to the Eagles is Unlikely
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Le'Veon Bell didn't walk away from $14.5 million in 2018 not to be a transformative figure in the NFL's salary structure.
The soon-to-be former Pittsburgh Steelers superstar has long thought of himself as more than a running back, a belief that one NFL source from Pittsburgh described to 973espn.com as an attempt to sell Bell as both a RB1 and WR2 at the same time while expecting his financial portfolio to reflect that.
Bell is finally set to get what he has always wanted after Steelers GM Kevin Colbert confirmed his team would not be putting the franchise tag on the former All-Pro for a third straight year and not even bother with the middle finger the transition tag would symbolize.
Bell is going to be a true unrestricted free agent on March 13 with the ability to sell himself to the highest bidder.
CBS' Jason La Canfora kicked off the silly season by reporting that Bell will be seeking a deal worth $50 million over the first two years and the top suitors are expected to be the New York Jets, Tampa Bay and the Eagles, despite the fact you could fit Howie Roseman's salary-cap space into a thimble that might further overflow, at least early if the organization decides to franchise Nick Foles in an effort to direct a sign-and-trade.
La Canfora admits there is skepticism that Bell can reach anywhere near $50M over the first two years of a deal with one former executive going far further than that in a text exchange with 973espn.com.
"That's silly," the former decision-maker wrote when told of Bell's reported wants. "You don't offer what you don't have to."
The landscape Bell faces is a steep one. The largest two-year stipend for any RB to date was recently given to the Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley at $27M. The top receiver is the Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. at $38M.
Even if you buy what Bell is selling, ignore that he ballooned back to his Michigan State weight by putting on 30 pounds while sitting out last season, and agree the three-down back offers more than any other player at his position, you don't push the ceiling up by $12M to $23M.
From the Eagles perspective, the 2017 version of Bell is a perfect fit for a team that has been going at it piecemeal in the backfield since Doug Pederson arrived in 2016.
There would be no more mixing and matching and worrying about the opposing side picking up on your tendencies and no more hoping Duce Staley can get the latest undrafted free agent up to speed to contribute at some point.
An All-Pro in the backfield who could flex out at any time is arguably the toughest defensive matchup in football in the modern era but the moving parts needed to get Bell to Philadelphia are too significant to overcome.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen