The chaos and frenzy of the NBA’s trade deadline appeared to bleed into the NFL offseason Friday, as a seemingly throwaway answer about Le’Veon Bell on an NFL Network show sparked a social media connection that raised hopes (and questions) for Ravens fans.
Friday morning on “Good Morning Football,” NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport said it would make sense for Bell, an unrestricted free-agent running back who made three Pro Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, to consider signing with the Ravens.
Word got around to Bell. He didn’t seem to mind the idea.
Then Bell noticed Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had started following him on Instagram. Another nebulous post followed, this time on Bell’s Instagram Story.
Bell reportedly turned down a five-year, $70 million offer from Pittsburgh in July. Then he never signed the Steelers’ franchise tag, a one-year designation worth $14.5 million. His desire was for a long-term deal reportedly worth over $17 million annually.
In Baltimore, only quarterback Joe Flacco had a higher average salary last season, and now the team is preparing to part ways with him. Next closest was defensive tackle Brandon Williams ($10.5 million).
The Ravens could theoretically free up space to sign Bell, whose receiving ability would give the team a dimension it lacks with Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon. But at his introductory news conference last week, general manger Eric DeCosta stressed a philosophy that would seem to preclude making such a splashy signing.
DeCosta said the Ravens want to “put ourselves in a really good salary cap situation now and also moving forward.” Given the wear and tear on running backs — the Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley signed a four-year, $57.5 million contract in July, then disappeared in the postseason — Ravens officials would likely consider unwise a contract with significant money guaranteed.
The Ravens also would prefer to spend money on talent retention, not acquisition. With standouts such as C.J. Mosley up for new deals this offseason (and Matthew Judon and Michael Pierce in 2020), DeCosta has said the front office is eager to re-sign Ravens who’ve proven themselves worthy.
“We’re in the business of keeping our good football players,” he said.