According to Adam Schefter yesterday, the Pittsburgh Steelers are ‘listening’ to trade offers from teams for running back Le’Veon Bell. This is probably not news. I’m sure they have been ‘listening’ all along. They always listen. And they always say that they always listen whenever they are asked. People just forget.
So the idea that a trade for Bell is somehow more imminent as of yesterday than it was the day before is probably erroneous at best. The reality is that the circumstances have not changed, nor have the requisite parameters of a deal actually getting done that is equitable for both sides.
And so I ask the question that is posed in the headline of this article: is there any team that is dumb enough to trade for Le’Veon Bell? I offer you below a selection of the reasons that it would be a dumb move to trade for him, most of which you should already know:
Bell Can’t Be Signed To A Multi-Year Deal This Season: Any team trading for Bell will be getting a player that they are merely renting for however many games he plays this year, because it is literally not allowed by CBA rules for a franchise-tagged player after the July deadline to sign a multi-year contract until after the current season is over. A team signing him now risks losing him. That’s why the Khalil Mack trade was completely different. The Chicago Bears were able to not only give Mack a new contract, but to negotiate the parameters of one before the trade happened.
Bell Is Not Going To Play For A While: This is, um, a pretty big one. Right now, the Steelers are about to play their third game without Bell, and it will likely be one of at least 10, if not more. He’s not playing because his goal is to preserve his body for free agency next year. This will be true no matter which team he is on because there is no team that can sign him to a contract that relates to any year beyond 2018 unless the Steelers rescind the tag entirely, which at this point is obviously not happening.
Steelers Have No Incentive To Trade For Less Than A 3rd-Round Pick: What do the Steelers gain by trading Bell for anything less than a third-round pick, the likely compensatory value they would get in 2020 for losing him in 2019 free agency? His absence is not hurting them right now because they are gaining back his weekly paychecks while he stays away. So any team that wants to trade for him has to be willing to give up at least a day-two pick or a player or players the team considers equal to such value.
Bell Probably Doesn’t Want To Be Traded: There’s not much to gain for Bell by being traded if he plans to play at all this year, and if he doesn’t plan to play, it’s a moot point anyway. But the simple fact is that his best opportunity to play well is to be on the Steelers. Learning a new offense in the middle of the season is not going to be conducive to playing well and showcasing yourself for the final time before you hit the open market. So even if the Steelers are ‘listening’ to offers, it’s entirely possible that Bell will torpedo any offer Pittsburgh thinks it might theoretically finalize.
Getting Bell To Play Before He Has To Will Be Costly: As Mike Florio will hasten to remind you, the Steelers can sign Bell to a contract that is worth more than the franchise tag. So any team that trades for him would be able to too. Florio has floated this idea out that there is some ethereal figure that would coax Bell into playing before he has to because the money is that good. But he wouldn’t even throw out a random number. I can assure you that number would be incredibly high. He’s already giving up nearly $1 million a week just to preserve his body. I’m not sure even a $20 million deal would get him off the couch. I don’t think there’s a realistic offer that would get him to play before Week Nine (which would allow him to avoid being hurt by being on the exempt list).
In Summary: A team signing for Bell will have to accept that they will be getting only about one third of a season out of a player who is consciously preserving his body for next season, one who may not even want to be traded, and one whom they cannot possibly secure for beyond that point until next year. They will have to be willing to give up at least a day-three draft pick in order to make it work for the Steelers. And if they want to try to get him to play sooner, they would have to throw so much money at him that it would hamstring them.
Unless the Oakland Raiders are ready to make another stupid mistake, Bell is going to be out of football for at least another five weeks after this, and possibly for the entire season, with the Steelers holding his rights.