For Whom the Bell Tolls

Well that didn’t take long! Our first fantasy football conundrum is upon us before 30 teams even play a down. Le’Veon Bell has not reported to the Pittsburgh Steelers to sign his $14.544M franchise tag, which will cost him around $850k per game missed. This is driving both fantasy owners and good old Mike Tomlin to focus on the next man up, who is James Conner, who we hope you Bell owners were able to roster.

The Steelers seem content waiting this out and not rescinding the tag or taking calls. This makes sense based on the fact that if Bell walks before entering free agency the Steelers would lose out on the compensatory pick in the 2019 draft, which would most likely be a 3rd. Bell also seems likely to return around week 10 to maintain that unrestricted free agency status entering the 2019 offseason.

What also seems destined is Bell wearing another uniform in 2019. Let’s take a look at the current CAP situations and who the squad thinks is the best destination. Per @FieldYates  here is the current top CAP friendly teams that could potentially acquire the rare talent that is Bell.

Stoner’s Pick: (SF 49ers)

@FantasyFBStoner : The Jerick McKinnon Era in San Francisco has ended before it even began. You heard it here first: He will never play a meaningful down for the 49ers. I understand they just signed him to a 4-year deal, but that means nothing. His salary for 2019 is very manageable, totaling $4.5m including bonuses, but that means nothing. Let me say it louder for those in the back: MCKINNON WILL NEVER PLAY A DOWN THAT MATTERS IN SAN FRAN.

The minimal cap hit ($1.5m) that will come from releasing McKinnon prior to the 2019 season makes him easier to cut, but there is another main reason his stay by The Bay will be short-lived. His name is Le’Veon Bell. Arguably, there is nobody in the history of football better suited for the things Kyle Shanahan likes to do on offense.

Shannahan.jpg

He is constantly lining running backs up in receiver positions, something no running back can do as well as Bell. There is so much pre-snap movement in Shanahan’s offense that running lanes open up simply because of defensive confusion, not just blocking schemes. Though an argument could be made that the success he has had in the power run game of the Steelers may not translate over to Shanahan’s outside-zone scheme, but this is utterly ridiculous.

Overall, Bell is the most talented player in the NFL. In 3 out of the last 4 season, he has easily surpassed 1200 rushing yards, 70 receptions, and 600 receiving yards. Additionally, he has 42 total touchdowns over 5 seasons. Not to mention, Bell is still only 26 years old, so (barring injury) there are plenty of years left in the tank. Last, but certain not least, there are few teams in the league that have the financial flexibility to pay Bell what he is worth and luckily for the 49ers, they are one of them.

After dipping their toes in the Khalil Mack waters, John Lynch and the 49ers need to cannonball in the Le’Veon Bell pool. He has the ability to beat a team in a multitude of ways and is the game-changer the 49ers need to truly fulfill their Quest For Six.

Chase’s Pick (NY Jets)

@GarageGuyChase :When you think of Lev, you think big, fast and popular. Kind of like a Jet plane. Jets are awesome and Lev Bell to the Jets would be even more awesome. The team has struggled to find a run game in years past. This move would allow a team that is ready to be a true contender in the AFC East to take a huge leap in the standings.

download (1).jpgWith Sam Darnold grabbing the starting job at QB, this would be the perfect time to add a weapon that could give the New England Patriots a run for their money and help progress a true rebuild in the Todd Boles era. Currently the Jets have $15,451,473 in cap space and we would more than likely see the release of 5 year running back Bilal Powell.

Fantasy Guy’s Pick (Indy Colts)

@fantasyguy93 I’m sure everyone has already heard, but Le’Veon Bell is good, and looking to get paid. The Steelers won’t do it, but someone else certainly will. One good landing spot for an elite RB1, with a high price tag, would be Indianapolis.

download (2).jpgAlthough the Colts franchise is headed by a “less than stable” owner in Jim Irsay, it sill remains a desirable location for Bell. The offense comes with a returning star in Andrew Luck, who can turn the team around immediately if he can get back to his normal self. There’s the always explosive T.Y. Hilton at WR, who can only benefit from Luck’s return, and an improved offensive line including the sixth overall pick, Quenton Nelson.

The Colts have a great mix of talented offensive weapons to put around Bell, if he chooses to play there. They also have what other teams don’t, which is cap space. The Steelers have made it perfectly clear that their opinion on Bell’s worth completely differs from that of Bell himself, or his agent, Adisa Bakari. They offered him $14M and he was asking for $17M. Based on how far apart the two sides are in this situation, it seems fair to assume that there’s little to no chance of him being a Steeler next season. The Colts have the roster space and the cap space to appease Bell, but will they be the ones to sign him to the historical contract he desires? We’ll see.

Kevin’s Pick (Houston Texans)

My thought is why not the Houston Texans. Pairing Bell with the electric young QB that is Deshaun Watson, and DeAndre Hopkins, that I wrote about here , would make for one of if not the most electric combo of QB/WR/RB in the NFL. The Texans could also front-load the guaranteed money to allow themselves time before signing Watson to the mega-deal he will demand if he can stay healthy. images (1).jpg

Look I know Lamar Miller is decent, but let’s be honest – he is nowhere close to the level of RB that Bell brings to an offense. Bell would provide the Texans with basically a WR2 in terms of target share, couple that with Nuk and Will Fuller V and the Texans are a hybrid TE away from having the potential to lead the league in offensive production, coupled with a solid defensive unit.

Here is exactly why Bell is basically a RB1 and WR2/TE1 combined, (courtesy of Pro Football Reference!

Rank Player Position Targets Catches Yards TD
1 Jarvis Landry WR 161 112 987 9
2 Larry Fitzgerald WR 161 109 1156 6
3 Michael Thomas WR 149 104 1245 5
4 Keenan Allen WR 159 102 1393 6
5 Antonio Brown WR 163 101 1533 9
6 DeAndre Hopkins WR 174 96 1378 13
7 Golden Tate WR 120 92 1003 5
8 Adam Thielen WR 142 91 1276 4
9 Julio Jones WR 148 88 1444 3
10 Le’Veon Bell RB 106 85 655 2
11 Travis Kelce TE 122 83 1038 8
12 D. Thomas (Den) WR 140 83 949 5
13 Alvin Kamara RB 100 81 826 5
14 Jack Doyle TE 108 80 690 4
15 C. McCaffrey RB 113 80 651 5
16 Doug Baldwin WR 116 75 991 8
17 A.J. Green WR 143 75 1078 8
18 Tyreek Hill WR 105 75 1183 7
19 Davante Adams WR 117 74 885 10
20 Zach Ertz TE 110 74 824 8

I mean honestly this guy had more catches in 2017 than Ertz, Adams, A.J. Green, or Baldwin! Those are WR1s and TE1 comps while maintaining workhorse rushing touches that separates him from the likes of Kamara and CMC in my opinion.

Where would you like to see Bell in 2019? Let us know!

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