Adding a star running back via free agency would be great, but for what the Cleveland Browns would have to pay, other options will need to be considered.
Earlier this week, Pittsburgh Steelers running Le’Veon Bell did not sign a long-term deal to remain with his team. Now, he will have to play on the franchise tag before becoming an unrestricted free agent next offseason. Could he join the Cleveland Browns in 2018?
Sure it would be beneficial to add a talent like Bell, but no, signing him is not going to happen. By adding Bell, Cleveland greatly improves their running game while hurting a divisional foe.
NFL Network‘s Tom Pelissero reported Pittsburgh’s offer included $30 million over two seasons and $42 million over three seasons. Rather than going with that deal, Bell’s contract will be worth $12.1 million.
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As one of the best running backs in the league, Bell is going to get paid. Where exactly is now the question. I have seen a lot of Cleveland fans already wanting Bell’s recruitment to begin in hopes that he join the Browns.
However, there are multiple reasons why recruiting Bell is simply not going to work. Despite not playing a full season since 2014 due to injuries or being suspended, Bell has been a key reason why Pittsburgh has had success playoff runs. Although the Browns should show significant improvement this season, they are still a long-term work in progress organization.
Besides, Cleveland still has starter Isaiah Crowell and he could remain in NE Ohio long-term. If it came down to those two, the Browns would likely side with Crowell due to cost since his next contract won’t be as much as Bell’s.
Adjustments will be made to the Browns’ salary cap by next offseason, which includes possibly releasing quarterback Brock Osweiler. However, more moves will be needed because according to spotac.com, Cleveland has just under $9.5 million in cap space for next offseason.
Even if Cleveland does not bring back Crowell, making the bigger move wouldn’t fit what their MO has been. Rather, drafting a star in the first round could be their desired route of preference… say Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.
With the offensive line intact, Cleveland would not have to pay an arm and a leg for a running back, but they still would solidify the position by drafting Barkley. As a result, the Browns can continue to build the team accordingly as they have been. Adding another wide receiver, strong safety, and cornerback could be areas Cleveland looks to improve upon following the 2017 season.
The good news for Cleveland fans is that Bell may not be a pain in the AFC North for much longer. Should that happen, teams such as the San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins could all be in play for Bell.
Until Bell’s contract situation is resolved, being excited about the what if factor is understandable. At the end of the day though, actually expecting Bell to consider Cleveland is unrealistic, so expect someone else to be the starting running back in 2018.