You know the NFL media is grasping for straws when we’re talking about the 2018 offseason already.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers failing to come to a long-term agreement with All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell this week, the speculation generator has been kicked into high gear.
Tiki Barber and Kyle Brandt of NFL Network discussed where they think Bell may land next year, when he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent yet again.
Barber believes the Steelers made the right move leaving Bell on the franchise tag—worth $12.1 million. “They don’t want to set the market on running backs right now, because nobody knows what it is,” Barber said. Later, Barber went on to say he believes Bell and the Steelers will eventually come to an agreement on a new deal in the upcoming years, once the running back market is clearer.
Brandt, on the other hand, had a very different idea. “I would love to see him in Honolulu Blue with the Detroit Lions,” Brandt said. “They need that running back. Ameer Abdullah, we're waiting, we're waiting. That's what I would love. Stafford would love it. The Lions would love it.”
It certainly is an interesting proposition. The Lions haven’t had an All-Pro running back since Barry Sanders, and their running game has been stuck in neutral for the better part of two decades. Additionally, the Lions are set to have a huge amount of cap space next year, even after Matthew Stafford presumable signs a long-term deal.
But there are as many reasons why this will never happen. First of which, the Lions are still committed to Ameer Abdullah. Detroit has expressed confidence in Abdullah all offseason. “He’s a good player and we’re excited to have him back,” offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said last month. Jim Caldwell added, “I believe Ameer Abdullah, when he’s healthy and rolling, he’s awfully good.”
If Abdullah proves his coaches right in 2017, there’s no reason to invest so much money in Bell, who would have the exact same role Abdullah has now.
Now if Abdullah suffers another injury, or doesn’t reach his potential, the Lions could very well be in the market for a running back. Abdullah will have just one year left on his contract, and the Lions would be wise to explore other options for 2018.
But even if that happens, Bell would have to somehow escape the Steelers’ grasp for Detroit to even get a shot at him. By all accounts, the Steelers still want him around for the long term. According to Ian Rapoport, the team was wrapped up in “intense negotiations” up until Monday’s deadline. The Steelers general manager has already said that negotiations with Bell will resume at the end of the 2017 season.
Even if those negotiations break down before free agency, Pittsburgh could use the franchise tag again in 2018, which would cost them somewhere between $14.4-14.8 million, a more than manageable figure for the team.
So while Le’Veon Bell in a Lions jersey is a fun scenario to think about, there are a lot of unlikely outcomes that would need to happen first. Even after his Detroit theory, Brandt admitted, “He’ll probably stay in Pittsburgh, though.”