Le'Veon Bell Free Agency Rumors: Raiders could spend big to land former Steelers running back
Oakland is starting to sound like they might really be interested in bringing in Le'Veon Bell to pair with Antonio Brown
There was never any way that Jon Gruden, with his competitive spirit, was willing to "organically tank" with the Raiders until he gets to Las Vegas. That's too long to lose that much. Enter Antonio Brown -- in what ultimately became a one-team trade market -- and, perhaps, Le'Veon Bell.
Brown is already a done deal, barring something highly unusual happening in the next 48 hours. Could Bell be next? I think there's a good chance the Raiders make a play at a reunion between the former Steelers stars, which is something I threw out last week on the Pick Six Podcast (our daily NFL podcast, we're breaking down a full day's worth of free agency every night).
We dove back into that topic on Monday morning in the wake of the Brown deal, with what amounts to a full show dedicated to the Raiders and Steelers swap (you can listen below).
Here's my theory: Gruden got real sick of losing last year as the Raiders struggled to be competitive and may have realized that shipping away his top tier talent -- Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper -- for draft picks might end up looking OK in the end but is ultimately disastrous for short-term competitive reasons. He wants to build out a strong, young roster for the team's arrival in Las Vegas while also competing right now and the only way to do that is to acquire older superstars.
It just so happens there's a couple former Steelers out there in the form of Brown (now on Oakland) and Bell (now a free agent) available for the right price. Step 1 is complete, why not go with Step 2. Then you go and draft Quinnen Williams (No. 4 overall), Noah Fant (No. 24) and Byron Murphy (No. 27) or some variation thereof. An offense with Carr, Bell, Brown and Fant? That would be spicy. The defense is going to take some work, but you could also conceivably make a splash in free agency by adding someone like C.J. Mosley.
This is a LOT of action for Oakland this offseason, but Gruden doesn't want his reputation destroyed by another miserable season. They're set up to slingshot themselves into competition with a few big moves and a few smart draft picks. This is a perfect draft for beefing up the team defensively and the Raiders are flush with cap space, owning more than $70 million in room.
I am not alone in believing the Raiders could chase Bell either. Multiple reports indicate the Raiders are interested in chasing after Bell and making a splash in free agency. CBS Sports NFL Insiderin the wake of the Brown deal, urging Gruden to go for gusto and spend big on the running back.
Dan Graziano of ESPN writes that he's hearing the Raiders "would like to use their salary-cap space on offensive players" and focus on fixing the defense in the draft. And Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports Oakland is "ready and willing" to spend in free agency, with Bell looming as a top target.
It would be folly to presume the Raiders will be magically great by recreating what the Steelers had in recent years. They're missing Ben Roethlisberger -- a pretty key piece! -- and Derek Carr is a downgrade from Ben, although the position isn't some empty void. There's also the question of whether or not Gruden would take someone like Kyler Murray with the No. 4 overall pick (or trade up if Arizona was willing to move down).
But whereas the last year or so felt like the Raiders were wandering aimlessly, this offseason it feels as if there's a plan. Who knows if it will work -- adding older, cast-off stars is a dangerous game of chicken with Father Time and regression -- but for Raiders fans it certainly feels like a more optimistic approach than just stripping everything down and hoping to be better by the time the team gets to Vegas.
At the very least, squint hard enough and it's easy to imagine the addition of Bell and Brown and a bunch of young defensive talent managing to make the Raiders a competitive problem in the AFC in 2019.
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