Hey there folks! It’s me – your resident RSR pessimist!
While I enjoy spending my days shooting down conspiracy theories and fan wish lists, I’d like to take a break from my perpetually pessimistic path to actually agree with a hot take.
That’s right! I’m going to be both optimistic and agreeable!
So let’s talk Le’Veon Bell (and I’m writing this while in the heart of Steelers Country, USA and surrounded by Yinzers, mind you).
It’s no secret that Bell opted to not show up to the Steelers facility yesterday, thus killing any chance he had at playing in 2018.Woo hoo. Great. We honestly don’t care a whole ton here in Baltimore, having already played them twice, and in Pittsburgh they’re over the moon with James Conner and have moved on.
Don’t get me wrong – it isn’t just “oh well!” in regards to Bell within this town covered in black and yellow. Talking to many folks in the past two days and listening to sports talk radio commentary, there’s a very general sense of hatred, and insistent that he take a long walk off a short cliff. Many folks think he’ll fall flat on his face, or not get the money he’s asking for, which, I mean, I get it.
As for Bell, I’m sure the sentiment is a shared one – he had a number in his mind, primarily in regards to guaranteed money, and the Steelers simply don’t like dishing out guaranteed coin. He felt like he gave them his all for so long as the primary weapon on that offense, and they short changed him in the end.
So 2018 is shot for Bell. He’ll be a free agent in 2019 (barring a crazy Transition Tag or 3rd Franchise Tag fight that the Steelers likely don’t want any part of), with an eye on a new team and a new contract.
Now the glaring question remains: do the Ravens fit into the 2019 Le’Veon Bell equation in any way, shape, or form?
Why, yes they do! And before you shut it down, as my Neutral Zone Infraction cohost Michael (Chibs) Telford said this week in regards to John Harbaugh realistically keeping his job:
“Just because it’s not likely, doesn’t mean it’s not plausible.”
The most likely scenario is that a cap-flush team ponies up and pays Lev-Bell whatever he wants. I don’t think there’s any question there.
But there is a plausible scenario in which the stud running back ends up in Baltimore.
First and foremost, the Ravens would need to be in a rebuild next year, and new GM Eric DeCosta would have to be on board with the idea of bringing Bell to Baltimore (I’m sure he’s reading this too). Understanding that the key to winning in the modern era NFL is offensive success, the Ravens should be heavily focused on this side of the ball, and this scenario falls in line with that logic.
Regardless of what happens in these final seven games of 2018, it’s obvious the Ravens need an upgrade at running back, and Bell could be just that, and more. He could provide a solid 4-5 years (that puts him at 30-31 years old end of the deal) at a position that’s been unstable for Baltimore since the days of Ray Rice. You can argue in favor of Justin Forsett, or even Alex Collins last year, but there’s been no consistency at the position, without question. And realistically, Bell would serve multiple purposes out of the gates: he’d improve the run game, improve the pass game, and give Lamar Jackson a great threat to lean on as he grows and develops in the NFL (obviously in this rebuild scenario, Lamar is starting in 2019).
Realistically? The fit makes sense. But a series of events and agreements would still have to happen in order for this marriage to work.
From a financial perspective, the rebuild is necessary, simply because the current version of the Ravens don’t have $15-20M to shell out to Bell next year (yes, they technically have $25-28M, but if you listen to our cap guru, Brian McFarland, you’ll quickly realize it’s substantially less than what you can dig up on some other website). Should the Ravens start a rebuild next year, they’d likely be shedding a few large contracts in Joe Flacco, Jimmy Smith, and Eric Weddle (possibly more). Suddenly? The cap space is flush.
Looking at contracts beyond 2019, thanks to inept drafting, the Ravens really don’t have many – if any – players in line for big deals these days, and having your starting QB on a rookie contract for the next 4+ years truly allows for the space to pay a chunk to Bell over the same stretch.
Of course the other major caveat here: Le’Veon Bell would have to agree to take slightly less than Todd Gurley‘s $16M AAV in his new deal. Baltimore is rebuilding and has no business paying that kind of money ($18-20M Bell believes he deserves) as a team unlikely to contend for a few years (also something Bell would have to come to terms with). But humor me here… if Bell feels compelled to stick it to the Pittsburgh franchise that he feels slighted him so badly the past two years, why not go to their hated rival and truly shove it in their faces twice a year? Would Bell consider taking $14-15M AAV – assuming the guaranteed money makes sense – while being able to rub it in the Steelers’ face as he dices their defense for the next handful of years? Getting to go back to Pittsburgh every year and embrace the boo birds?
Would Bell embrace the purple and black, and become a Baltimore Raven?
I, for one, would be ready to embrace a renewed hatred in the best rivalry in the NFL, and gladly bring Bell to Baltimore as a focal point on the new-look Ravens.