Le'Veon Bell Rumors: Ravens Generating Buzz as Possible Favorite to Sign RB

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2019

FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) plays in an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger are among a Pro Bowl high of eight Pittsburgh Steelers to make the all-star game. Twenty-four of the 86 Pro Bowl selections announced Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 are newcomers. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

After spending years rooting against former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, Baltimore Ravens fans could soon find themselves cheering him.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec reported Thursday there's growing speculation at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine that the Ravens are one of the favorites to sign the three-time Pro Bowler in free agency, which opens March 13.

This will mark the first time in his career that Bell will be able to explore the open market. He has been unable to do so the past two years as Pittsburgh placed the franchise tag on him in back-to-back offseasons. That won't be the case this year, though.

"Le'Veon is still a great player," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler last week. "We can't afford to use any other type of tags. Le'Veon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year."

As a result, teams will be free to pursue the star at will.

There may be questions about whether Bell will be rusty after sitting out the entire 2018 campaign rather than play under the franchise tag for a second consecutive year, but he has proved to be one of the top running backs in football when he has taken the field.

Not only has he rushed for 1,000-plus yards three times in five seasons, but the versatile back has also been a factor in the passing game. He piled up 2,215 yards from scrimmage in 2014, and he later recorded 1,200-plus rushing yards and 600-plus receiving yards in both 2016 and 2017.

Meanwhile, Baltimore had the second-ranked rushing attack in the league, thanks to rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said on Wednesday, per Zrebiec, that Gus Edwards—an undrafted free agent in 2018—enters the offseason atop the team's depth chart at running back after rushing for 718 yards as a rookie. However, Harbaugh also let it be known that the team would bring in competition for Edwards.

Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman recently said on The Lounge podcast (h/t Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com) that the team is looking for an "elite" running back. Given his resume, Bell would seemingly fit that description.

Bringing in a proven runner like Bell would help the Baltimore ground game build on its success next season. Plus, Bell's ability to catch passes out of the backfield would help Jackson as he continues to develop as an NFL quarterback.

It wouldn't hurt that signing with the Ravens would give Bell the opportunity to face Steelers—the team that wouldn't meet his price on a long-term deal—twice a year. He would undoubtedly love to make Pittsburgh pay for not paying up.

Of course, signing Bell would require Baltimore to be willing to spend. The Ravens rank ninth in the league with more than $50 million in cap space, per Spotrac. They have money, but they do have free agents of their own to pay, such as Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley.

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