ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports that the Steelers are listening to trade offers for disgruntled running back Le’Veon Bell, who has yet to report to the team (Twitter link). While we might expect further clarification shortly, as of right now it is unclear whether Pittsburgh is actively shopping Bell or if the team is simply fielding calls. Likewise, we do not know which teams (if any) have approached the Steelers about a potential trade.
The Bell saga has been one of the most well-documented storylines of the past several offseasons. The last substantive report we heard on the matter came several weeks ago, which suggested that Bell could hold out until the Tuesday following Week 10 of the regular season (he would preserve his free agency status by returning by that point). However, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explored today, Bell could decide to skip the entire 2018 season, which would be a risky, but potentially profitable, move.
We had previously heard that the Steelers were unwilling to either rescind Bell’s franchise tag or trade the star running back, so today’s report represents a rather dramatic change in thinking. Still, it is fair to wonder just how much a rival club would be willing to give up for the rights to Bell given his holdouts, the mileage he already has on his legs, and his contract status. Indeed, any team that trades for Bell would be precluded from negotiating a long-term deal with him before the end of the season, and the franchise tag value for him for 2019 would be unpalatable. Plus, such team would of course need to have a fair amount of cap space this year.
But if a club is able to acquire Bell, it would obviously land a playmaker that would dramatically increase that team’s chances of making a championship run. And the Steelers, who are 0-1-1 and dealing with a number of other concerns, may simply want to get what they can for Bell and move forward with James Conner as their lead back.
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