The Pittsburgh Steelers are on record as stating that they want to work out a long-term contract agreement with sixth-year veteran running back Le’Veon Bell. Bell is also on record as stating that he would like to remain with the Steelers on a long-term basis. That does not necessarily mean that it will happen.
There are three primary scenarios in which the situation can play out between now and the start of the new league year. For one thing, they can actually work out a long-term agreement. Failing that, the second option would be to give him the franchise tag, which Kevin Colbert said is on the table, though it is not a desired option. The third possibility is that he is not signed, nor tagged, and is allowed to hit the open market.
Should that happen, it might be interesting to see how things go. Bell wants to be not just the highest-paid player at his position—he already is—he wants to be one of the highest-paid skill-position players in the NFL, and he also sees himself as a pioneer of the new running back salary landscape.
In my opinions, if running backs were smart, they would tell their agents to negotiate second contracts of shorter terms, perhaps of three years, because running back contracts are routinely deflated over fears of a short shelf life. The shorter the commitment, the more likely teams are willing to invest significant resources annually.
Still, in free agency, it only takes one team, and there are teams with money to spend. Failing his staying put in Pittsburgh, two likely suitors according to the league’s website are on the east coast, though in the NFC: the New York Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Both landing spots would make sense, as neither have a strong presence in the running game at the moment, but could otherwise have a quality offense, particularly with regards to the wide receiver position. They are both currently fronted by top draft picks at the quarterback position as well.
“If Bell’s price is too high for the Steelers”, writes Gil Brandt, “the Buccaneers and Giants could both use his services. Tampa Bay hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2015, and the Giants haven’t had one since 2012. Imagine what Bell could do to help unlock that Bucs offense. New York, meanwhile, is starved for complementary talent to help ease Eli Manning’s burden”.
The Giants, indeed, have not had a stable running game in quite some time, but when they were at their most recent peak, they had a dynamic pair of runners in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Since then, they have tried the first-round route in David Wilson, who suffered a career-ending neck injury two years into his career.
As far as the Buccaneers go, they recently had Doug Martin, but he no longer appears to be a viable option, ironically, largely due to suspension concerns. He checked into a rehab clinic for Adderall addiction. He is two seasons removed from his last strong year in 2015.