What a baffling move by the Jets’ front office. After a season of disappointment, there have been rumors that the Le’Veon Bell experiment is over in Gang Green. Without further ado, here are the top 5 trade destinations for the All-Pro running back.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa is in a weird spot right now. They have a playoff-caliber team for sure, but erratic quarterback Jameis Winston wants to get paid top dollar, and there’s no reason to believe Bruce Arians will commit to that, especially after Winston threw 30 interceptions in 2019. Decision-making is a yikes for the 5th-year pro, and his self-evaluation of how much he’s worth may be a little different than what GM Jason Licht and Arians think.
Tampa also has to resign All-Pro edge rusher, Shaquil Barrett, as well, which will take up about 20 million in cap space. If they trade a mid-to-late round pick for Bell, which will likely be his asking price given the lucrative contract that Gang Green paid, that shaves off another 14 million.
Furthermore, trading for Bell gives Tampa a guarantee, regardless of who is playing quarterback. If I was Jason Licht, I would tag and trade Winston for draft picks, and then draft an offensive lineman in the 1st round. I would use the picks from the Jameis trade to then get back into Round 1 and draft a quarterback (Jacob Eason, for example).
Trading for Bell ensures another explosive weapon in the passing game for whoever plays quarterback and also provides stability if that young quarterback needs time for development. Bell’s presence can also revive Tampa’s running game, and if Arians uses him correctly, he can be as good as 2016-17 David Johnson, also coached by Arians.
If I was a Tampa Bay fan and I was getting an All-Pro running back an improved offensive line, and a new quarterback in one offseason to go along with a deadly receiving core, sign me up for that.
2. Washington Redskins
The #1 priority for the Washington Redskins is making the life of Dwayne Haskins much easier. He played really well to close out the season, as did rookie receivers Terry McLaurin and Steven Sims Jr. However, the injuries to the Redskins’ running backs cannot continue if this team wants to win. Thus, trading a late-round pick for Bell makes too much sense here, as it revives a dormant rushing attack.
Unless they do something way out of left field, it is fair to assume Washington will draft Chase Young with the 2nd overall pick, and rightfully so. Part of making a young quarterback’s life much easier includes building a monster front-7 that can make an opposing offense’s life really difficult.
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Montez Sweat, Ryan Anderson, Matt Ioannidis, and Young (most likely) will make this defensive line really difficult to block. Linebackers Cole Holcomb and Reuben Foster are very talented as well, and Washington’s investment into their defensive line is a blueprint on how to build a defense from inside out, similar to how San Francisco finished theirs in 2019.
If Washington trades for Bell, not only does it provide a dominant running game, but it also allows Dwayne Haskins to play game manager until he is comfortable in the new offense, which is exactly what he needs. Feed Bell in both the passing and running game, make risk-free throws, and then let the defense take care of the rest.
As of right now, it is still unclear whether All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams will return, so Washington might want to prioritize using a Day 2 pick on a left tackle. Either way, Bell will do just as long as the offensive linemen who were injured all return. Consider this a win for the Redskins’ offense and their defense.
3. Miami Dolphins
Miami will either draft Oregon QB Justin Herbert (who they should) or Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa (who they shouldn’t), but rebuilding an entire roster is very difficult in one offseason. The Dolphins have needs all across the board, and running back is no exception. To rebuild a roster, however, a team needs competent veterans who can bridge positional holes until they find a successor.
However, Bell is far more than competent. He was one of the best running backs in the league until he committed himself to working for Adam Gase, which led to his worst season as a pro. The former Steelers All-Pro can definitely take over in the Dolphins’ backfield, and they can use their vast array of draft picks to build a competitive roster that will be friendly for a young quarterback.
The opportunity to sacrifice a late-round pick for a player like Bell would be too much to pass on for any GM, let alone the Dolphins, who can scheme their entire gameplan around his patient running style. Bell just makes life easier for them, period. That’s why trading for him should be a top priority if given the opportunity.
4. New England Patriots
Is the greatest quarterback of all time leaving the New England Patriots? Only time will provide an answer to that question. However, a large part of why Brady wants to leave is because he got absolutely no help from any of his skill positions, regardless of whether it was running the ball or throwing.
Average separation at throw on all routes for the six #Patriots WRs that ran at least 100 routes, per Next Gen (NFL rank out of 143):
Edelman – 2.82 (106)
Sanu – 2.77 (112)
Gordon – 2.74 (118)
Meyers – 2.72 (120)
Dorsett – 2.72 (121)
Harry – 2.21 (143)
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) January 10, 2020
New England’s receivers couldn’t get open to save their lives, rookie N’Keal Harry looked more like a bust, and OC Josh McDaniels couldn’t stop running the ball right into the teeth of opposing defenses, especially when it was clear that those run calls weren’t going to work.
If New England traded for Bell, he would be an upgrade in the passing and in the running game, especially behind the decent offensive line the Patriots have built. Outside of Julian Edelman, who had 10 drops in 2019, Bell would be the most impactful receiving weapon for the Patriots, and if they stick to their MO of throwing screens and check-downs, they can have at it with a player like Bell in 2020.
The 2019 Jets had the worst offensive line in all of football last season (except for maybe the Miami Dolphins), and it’s arguable that no running back, including Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey, would be able to thrive in that backfield.
The Patriots’ receivers may not be an upgrade compared to the Jets’ receivers, but they have a better quarterback and a better offensive line, and for a player like Bell, sometimes that’s all one needs to get back to MVP form.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes is the greatest talent the NFL has ever seen, and undoubtedly the best football player in the entire league. After one of his subpar performances was enough to propel a Chiefs comeback against the defensive line of the century in Super Bowl 54, there is no limit to how great Mahomes is and will be.
However, a missing element to this Chiefs offense for most of the season was their rushing attack, which is usually a staple in any Andy Reid offense. If the Chiefs want to become even more difficult to beat, all they need to do is draft corners and offensive linemen. That’s it. But if a talent like Le’Veon Bell is available for cheap, why not take on that contract?
It makes the Chiefs’ offense a whole lot scarier if they develop a stronger running game, and if their defense takes a hit with Chris Jones leaving, then Bell can just protect leads while Reid just runs him into the ground. Obviously, no defense can stack the box against a player like Patrick Mahomes, so Bell’s effectiveness is optimized as a result of his surrounding talent.
Running back is a very replaceable position. However, Le’Veon Bell is an incredible talent, and a late-round pick is a steal for a player of that caliber, especially on a Mahomes-led offense. If GM Brett Veach traded multiple high-value assets to the Seahawks for Frank Clark of all players, why not trade an expendable asset for a running back like Le’Veon Bell?