After failing to come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension with the Steelers prior to the July 16 deadline, Bell will now be forced to play out the 2018 season on the franchise tag (worth a fully guaranteed $14.5 million) for the second year in a row. He has yet to report to Steelers camp, but plans to there in time to prepare for and play in the team’s Week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns.
Q: Le’Veon will take the same approach as last year…he will not participate in the off-season and he will be there Week 1?
A: Barring something exceptional…that is correct.
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) July 17, 2018
Earlier this offseason Bell’s agent also bluntly stated that 2018 would likely be Bell’s last season with the Steelers. With that being the case, sportsbooks have now started taking wagers on which NFL team Bell will be playing for when Week 1 of the 2019 season comes around. Here’s who they have given the best odds of signing the three-time All-Pro next offseason.
Odds courtesy of Bovada as of August 20, 2018.
Cleveland Browns (+500)
The Browns don’t actually make a lot of sense here. First off, they invested a second round pick (No. 35 overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft on former Georgia running back Nick Chubb, and they signed Carlos Hyde as a free agent this past offseason. Second, Cleveland is only projected to have $8.3 million in salary cap space in 2019. Simply put: the Browns have more pressing needs.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+400)
In our eyes, the Steelers are going to be a serious threat to sign Bell until they officially pull themselves out of the running. Both sides are familiar with each other; Bell has close friends and a support system in place in Pittsburgh; and, of course, the Steelers are still a Super Bowl-caliber team.
Unlike the other teams on this list, though, the Steelers aren’t projected to have a whole lot of salary cap space available next offseason ($13.4 million to be exact).
New York Jets (+400)
The Jets are projected to have a whopping $78.6 million in salary cap space in 2019. That number could drop slightly if they opt to sign defensive end Leonard Williams to a long-term extension, but either way, the Gang Green will have a lot of money to work with next offseason.
More importantly, adding Bell would help take some of the pressure off Sam Darnold, who will likely be the Jets’ Week 1 starter in 2019.
Indianapolis Colts (+375)
The Colts are the odds-on favorites to land Bell, and it makes perfect sense. They have a glaring need at running back; their window to win a championship with Andrew Luck under center is rapidly shrinking; and they are projected to have $57.4 million in salary cap space in 2019. Bottom line: if Bell hits the open market, which is very likely, the Colts are one of the few teams in the league with the cap space available to make him the type of offer he is looking for.
Other notable teams to watch:
- Detroit Lions (+550)
- Houston Texans (+600)
- Oakland Raiders (+1000)
- Arizona Cardinals (+1200)
- Buffalo Bills (+1500)
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