Well, let’s use a little process of elimination to find out.
First, cross out all the teams in the AFC North. The Steelers will not trade their greatest asset to a team within their own division. So as cool as it would be to see Baker Mayfield and Le’Veon Bell together and as good as their $60 million in cap space looks, Cleveland is out, along with Baltimore and Cincinnati. That leaves 28.
Next, we’ll get rid of all the teams who had a 1,000-yard rusher last season, since they don’t need Bell. So the Chiefs, Rams, Saints, Bears, Chargers, and Jaguars are all out. The Panthers are also out since they signed C.J. Anderson. Buffalo is still in because of LeSean McCoy’s current situation and iffy future
Let’s also knock out the teams who have “elite” running backs that last year couldn’t make it to 1000 yards. So the Cardinals, Cowboys, and Falcons are all out. That leaves 18 teams.
Now we’ll look at the teams who have more than $10 million in cap hits to running backs. These teams can’t afford to sink in even more money to the running back position.
This takes out the Bills, Texans and 49ers and now we’re down to 15.
What about young, high-potential running backs? It wouldn’t make sense to waste these high draft picks, so let’s get rid of teams with first or second round running backs in the last 3 years.
The Giants, Seahawks, Patriots, Buccaneers, Lions, Redskins, Vikings, and Titans are all out. Now, we’re left with 7.
The final seven teams in the running for Le’Veon Bell are the Broncos, Colts, Dolphins, Eagles, Jets, Packers, and Raiders. Many people have similar lists, but stop here and debate who out of the 7 will get Bell. But we can go farther.
Bell’s reported asking price is in the ballpark of $17 million per season, and he reportedly rejected a contract worth $12 million per year with $33 million guaranteed over the first 2 years. So at minimum, we’re looking for teams that have the cap space to sign Bell now under his franchise tag (currently $11.1 million, $7.7 million by the trade deadline) AND have the space to sign a long term contract.
This means that the Raiders, Dolphins, Broncos, and Eagles are all out since they can’t afford to sign Bell without gutting their rosters. Now there are just the Packers, Jets, and Colts.
This is where things get tricky. At this point it becomes a case of which team can make the best pitch to Bell. The Jets and Colts can offer more money than the Packers can by virtue of having more than double the cap space.
Green Bay and Indianapolis boast superstar quarterbacks while New York has a young, talented quarterback that won’t overshadow Bell’s own star power.
The offensive line will certainly be a big factor, since part of Bell’s holdout is about staying healthy so he can play for a contract in the future.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Packers have the #4 offensive line this season, while the Jets and Colts are both in the bottom half of the league (#17 and #22).
If Bell’s goal is to not only put up numbers but also win Super Bowls, then Green Bay looks very good here as well. A combo of Aaron Rodgers and Le’Veon Bell would instantly jump Green Bay into title contention, even in a stacked NFC.
In the AFC, the Jets have a brighter future than the Colts due to an easier division (once Brady retires, it’s even easier) and an overall better roster.
If Bell is willing to be patient to win a title, New York is a great destination to build a team with.
At this point, it’s safe to eliminate the Colts. No matter what their pitch is, Green Bay or New York can do better. So between the Jets and the Packers, who is going to get Le’Veon Bell?
Both teams can pitch a glorious future in their own ways, and both have their own reasons why Bell would want to play there.
The difference is, cynically, the money. Bell has been up front that his current holdout is for the mega contract he believes he deserves. Bell is about his own brand right now, and that’s something that just doesn’t work in Green Bay.
The Jets have over $100 million in cap next season that they can throw around. The Packers only have $47 million. This is also before re-signing players. Currently the Packers would have to wait until the trade deadline to even afford Bell.
The Jets could make their move right now and still have plenty of cap space left to add another piece or two by the trade deadline.
So where will Le’Veon Bell be traded? The New York Jets. You heard it here first. Take it down to the bookie and place a bet on the Jets to get Bell. It’s the easiest 9-1 payout you’ll ever get.
For Advertising and Sponsorship opportunities with The Game Changer Sports Network, please contact Jake at Jake.Jollymore@gmail.com.
Photo Credit: NFL, Getty Images