Le'Veon Bell has skipped the Steelers' first two regular-season games and it remains unclear when he'll rejoin the team. And now, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Bell may have already played his last game for Pittsburgh because the Steelers are listening to trade offers.
There's still plenty to work out before we get to that point. First, Bell would have to sign his franchise tender before the Steelers could do anything. And it's hard to imagine he'd put pen to paper without an agreement on a long-term deal from his new team that the Steelers refused to give him.
There's also the matter of compensation; Pittsburgh would almost certainly get a third-round compensatory pick should they hold onto Bell for the rest of this season and let him hit free agency in the spring. (Assuming, of course, Bell shows up before Week 10 and signs his tender. If Bells holds out beyond Week 10, he's barred from playing in 2018 and he wouldn't be eligible for free agency.) And Pittsburgh will almost certainly want something more than a third-round pick to trade Bell.
As it stands, Bell is forfeiting $855,000 a week to hold out. His plan is to save wear and tear on his body and avoid injury this season so he can earn the money he feels he's due in 2019. It's worth noting that Bell reportedly turned down a $60 million deal before the 2017 season and a $70 million deal Antonio Brown money -- .. And at one point this offseason, he was reportedly looking to
And while Bell is well within his rights to demand what he thinks he's worth, it's something else entirely to find a team willing to pay it. But Bell is one of the league's most dynamic players, and as the old saying goes, it's only takes one. So, assuming the logistics of getting him to sign his tender is uncomplicated, who might those potential suitors be?
The Colts have the 22nd-ranked rushing offense, according to Football Outsiders, and a playmaker like Bell would make life immeasurably easier for Andrew Luck. Rookie Jordan Wilkins currently leads the team in rushing with 101 yards on 24 carries.
The Jets have the 30th-ranked rushing offense and there is no better friend for a rookie quarterback than a stout running game. Sam Darnold got 102 yards from Isaiah Crowell in Week 1 but the offense sputtered in Thursday night's loss to the Browns.
San Francisco has been replacement-level in the run game (16th overall) but it lost Jerick McKinnon before the season. McKinnon signed a four-year, $30 million deal before the season but the 49ers can get out from under it for only $2 million in dead cap space next offseason. Put another way: They can easily afford to add Bell.
Deshaun Watson has looked rusty in his first two starts, and while the running game has been efficient (sixth overall through two weeks) Bell would give the passing game another legit target after DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller.
Cleveland has plenty of playmakers but when you have one win in 635 days you're in no position to ignore adding another one. Not only that, but Bell would be a welcome addition in the backfield now that Baker Mayfield is expected to be the starting quarterback. Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb are mostly runners, and Duke Johnson is the pass-catching threat, but Bell is an upgrade over all three.
The five teams mentioned above, in addition to the Jaguars, Titans and Cowboys, all have at least $12 million in cap space available to add Bell, who is currently owed $11.98 million on the balance of his 2018 franchise tender, according to ESPN's Field Yates.