Cleveland Browns should find out if Le’Veon Bell wants to beat the Steelers
Now that the New York Jets have cut Le’Veon Bell, the very talented but equally controversial running back and former Steeler, the question is whether the Cleveland Browns should consider making him an offer. Likely 99 percent of the Dawg Pound will say that he is not needed, since the Browns have Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and they are also finding out that D’Ernest Johnson also has an apostrophe in his name and can run the ball, so who needs Bell? All of that is true.
Nevertheless, 31 teams in the NFL will be picking up the phone and calling Adisa Bakari, Bell’s agent and just finding out what Bell’s terms are. So should Andrew Berry and the Browns. Is he healthy? Would he accept a one-year “prove it” deal?
Making Bell an offer does not mean making him a foolish offer. The Browns are not in a position to offer a multiyear deal, and it might not be that much more than the NFL minimum, but some sort of offer should be made if he is healthy. Perhaps he’s not, since he is coming off a hamstring injury this season.
How badly does he want to beat Pittsburgh? Remember, the Steelers were the team that he feuded with at the negotiating table. He wanted to be paid wide receiver dollars, based on the fact that he often lined up in the slot and even split wide on occasion.
His career high was 854 receiving yards for the Steelers. That’s not bad for a part time receiver. Maybe he would be willing to line up in the slot for the Browns, in addition to being part of a three headed monster with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Lest anyone say it is crazy, the Ravens have three legitimate first string running backs with three-time Pro Bowler Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, plus Lamar Jackson. They gain 3,000 yards a year on the ground and they did okay against Cleveland in the opening game.
Cleveland is currently using KhaDarel Hodge as their main third wide receiver, though he is currently injured. In his place, Donovan Peoples Jones and Rashard Higgins took some game snaps last week. D’Ernest Johnson also took 22 snaps at running back versus Indy (30 percent of offensive snaps). Thus, against Indianapolis, had a healthy Bell been on the roster, he would have been able to play the entire game while taking away zero snaps from Kareem Hunt, and obviously Chubb and Hodge were unavailable.
If the Browns pull off the upset against Pittsburgh on Sunday, suddenly Bell has the very real possibility of helping the Browns beat his former employer for the AFC North championship. The Browns are the logical team if he wants to do this. He gets to operate behind a premier offensive line, and one that has some depth to it.
Baltimore has an even more crowded backfield than the Browns with Ingram, Dobbins, Edwards, Hill and of course, Jackson. They too would be looking at Bell as a slot receiver, with even fewer opportunities for him to run the ball than the Browns could offer.
The Bengals? Well, he could split carries with Joe Mixon, but their blocking is as bad as the Jets and their team is too far behind to challenge for the division.
It is worth Andrew Berry’s time to pick up the phone to call Adisa Bakari. There’s not enough time to get Bell ready for this Sunday even if he is healthy. But they will play a game on January 3, and then there is the post-season. He could help Cleveland knock Pittsburgh out of the playoffs. On a one year rental contract, if he gets his yards in spot duty, that will help him get his next, better, deal for 2021 with another team. It could be a win-win.
Nothing bad happens if the Browns make a small offer and it gets turned down.
If some team offers him a big multiyear deal now, good for Bell, but the Browns are not the right team to match it. They cannot be thinking about him as a long term part of the team.
But that multiyear offer may or may not be forthcoming from another NFL team based on the carnage resulting from his misadventures in the Big Apple. Bell might be available at a surprisingly low cost on a one-year deal, and might contribute to the second half of the 2020 season. So this writer is not saying blow the salary cap for a player on the downside of the career, but do make the courtesy call to the player’s agent.
An offer in the range of $1.5 million for the balance of the season might be reasonable, though it would be a tough sell to get his signature.