Erstwhile Pittsburgh Steelers star Le’Veon Bell has yet to officially enter free agency. However, the 27-year-old All-Pro running back is expected to draw a lot of attention from other NFL teams once free agency kicks off on March 13. The New York Jets have often been considered as one of the most likely candidates to acquire Bell’s services, and as a new report suggests, the team could indeed be well ahead of the others.
In a report that focused on the New York Jets’ plans for the upcoming free agency season, Connor Hughes of subscriber-only outlet The Athletic wrote that the Jets are “undeniably the favorite” in the upcoming Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes. As cited by Bleacher Report, Hughes also wrote that the Jets could pursue Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman as an alternative option — in the event Bell ends up signing with another team.
After making three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams during his tenure with the Steelers, Bell elected not to sign his franchise tag with the Steelers. He ultimately sat out the entire 2018 season, Bleacher Report recalled. As he ended up forfeiting his entire salary of $14.5 million last season, the publication predicted that Bell will likely sign with the team that could pay him the most money.
Although the Jets have the second-most salary cap space in the NFL at $102.5 million, Bleacher Report added that there are a few other teams whom they may have to contend with in the chase for Le’Veon Bell. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers –who struggled at the running back position in 2018, as pointed out by Fansided‘s The Pewter Plank — were also mentioned as favorites to acquire Bell. The Buccaneers only have $15.6 million worth of cap room ahead of the 2019 free agency season, however.
In addition to the Jets and the Buccaneers, the Philadelphia Eagles could also be in the thick of things. As reported last week by The Inquisitr, recent Philadelphia Phillies signee Bryce Harper appeared to be recruiting Bell when he sent the running back an Instagram direct message, inviting him to sign with the Eagles and “take this city by storm.” The Eagles, however, have even less cap space than the Bucs, with just $4.2 million to spend on new players as of this writing.
Prior to the new report from The Athletic, Manish Mehta of The New York Daily News wrote in February that there might be some concerns that could force the team to give some pause before offering Bell a contract. These include the rumors that Bell gained about 35 pounds while he was sitting out last season and weighed, at one point, about 260 pounds. With that in mind, Mehta added that he’s heard the Jets “are not going to break the bank” for the superstar running back, but nonetheless stressed that the team should do more than “make a token low-ball offer” once free agency kicks off.