Le’Veon Bell is set to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent. The Eagles are in dire need of a running back and Bell would be a direct solution to that need, but does that mean the team will pursue the star running back in free agency?

After much speculation, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert announced Wednesday that the team would not be putting the franchise or transition tag on Bell, allowing him to finally become an unrestricted free agent. Bell sat out the entire 2018 season after being franchise tagged by the Steelers for a second-straight season.

Bell is one of the most talented running back’s in the league, and is also one of the best pass-catchers coming out of the backfield. In 2016 and 2017, Bell’s last two seasons, the 27 year old ran for 2,559 yards on 582 carries for 16 touchdowns, and also caught 160 passes for 1,271 yards and four touchdowns. Bell was selected to the Pro Bowl both seasons and was first team All-Pro in 2017.

On the other side of the page, the Eagles running back position was a disaster in 2018. Starting running back Jay Ajayi was only active for four games this season, as he missed time due to a back injury and eventually missed the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Ajayi is set to be a free agent and likely won’t sign a contract until he is completely recovered from his knee injury. Darren Sproles suffered a hamstring injury after week 1’s game against the Atlanta Falcons and didn’t suit up for a game again until week 13. Lastly, Corey Clement battled injury early in the season, and eventually suffered a season-ending knee injury in week 14 against the Dallas Cowboys.

In 2018, the Eagles totaled just 1,570 rushing yards, the fifth-least in the NFL. In comparison, the Eagles ran for the third-most yards in 2017 with 2,115.

On paper, Bell makes sense for the Eagles. He is a multi-faceted running back, which is something that Doug Pederson and the Eagles offense covets, and would provide Carson Wentz an easy option both on the ground and in the air.

However, when looking at the financial aspect, it makes the situation far more complex.

The Eagles are currently just $2 million under the cap as it stands. Meanwhile, Bell is reportedly seeking a contract that will pay him $15-$20 million over multiple years, and would also like to be receive a front-loaded contract that pays out $50 million over the first two seasons, according to CBS’ Jason La Confora.

In that situation, the Eagles would have to clear up significantly more money just to even discuss a deal with Bell.

The Eagles could start with moving on from Tim Jernigan, who is set to make $13 million. That would leave the Eagles with around $15 million in open cap space and in the ballpark of what Bell desires.

However, that move would potentially fill one hole while immediately opening up another; as was shown in the Eagles’ season-ending loss to the Saints, the lack of depth at defensive tackle became a factor down the stretch and the front four for the Eagles weakened as time went on.

Also, signing Bell to a deal of that nature would leave the Eagles with no money leftover to pursue other free agents. In that case, the next move the team could make is either restructuring or parting ways with Jason Peters, who is also set to make $13 million next season. Peters is undecided on returning for the 2019 season, but his return would handicap the Eagles’ cap situation. However, moving on from Peters would also leave the Eagles with a big question mark at the games most important position that isn’t quarterback.

With all of that being said, it is also important to return back to the fit of Bell. Though this is a bit contradicting, the Eagles are proponents of using a committee when it comes to their running back position, even if they have a player who can run and catch. With Clement set to be back at full strength and Sproles potentially returning for another season, is it worth it to pay Bell that much money to split touches with at least two other players? Clement and Sproles could have their workload’s reduced, but that would require a change of philosophy from Pederson.

The Eagles also won’t be the only team bidding for Bell in the event they do decide to pursue him. The New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans are all expected to pursue Bell. The Buccaneers have the least cap space out of that group with just $15 million open to spend, but the rest are all north of $70 million in open cap space.

One last situation that needs to be discussed is the abundance of other options available. The Eagles could pursue players such as Telvin Coleman, Lamar Miller (if cut), Latavius Murray and LeGarrette Blount in free agency, all of whom would be fits in the offense and at a much cheaper cost. There is also the upcoming NFL Draft, where the Eagles could select Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery and Bennie Snell Jr, among other running backs.

It is always important for a team to load up on as much star power as possible when they’re pursuing another Super Bowl, and Bell fits into that category. However, it is also important to be able to fill multiple needs instead of putting all of the eggs in one basket.

Bell is a great player who would provide a serious boost for the Eagles offense, but there are many moving parts to being able to even discuss a contract with him, and there are other avenues the Eagles could go to fill their running back need. This all, though, is for Howie Roseman along with Pederson to decide if they are comfortable with or not. After all, Roseman loves to get his hands on some of the games best players, and it is unfair to rule out him pursuing Bell.


Stay tuned for any updates on Bell, as they are sure to come hot and fast as the star running back aims to get settled with a new team for 2018, whether or not that is with the Eagles.

Photo: Getty Images
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