While Brett Mock has been breaking down free agents that are a part of the Colts’ roster who need to be re-signed, I thought it would be a good idea to begin looking at some guys individually who the Colts might need to consider signing from outside the organization this offseason. First up, Le’Veon Bell.
Le’Veon Bell is one of the most dynamic running backs in football. Not only does he have the patience and vision to gash teams on the ground, but he has the ability in the receiving game to be a dangerous target out of the backfield. Teams facing a running back of his quality have to plan for him, all the while respecting that Antonio Brown will be busy thrashing their secondary.
In 2018 though, that won’t be likely to continue. Why? Bell is a free agent and will be looking for a big contract. The Steelers will have the worst cap situation in football going into the 2018 season and likely won’t be able to afford to keep him around. That means that possibly the best running back in the league will be up for grabs.
That’s where the Colts come in. The Colts are projected to have the most cap space available for any team in the NFL for the 2018 season at around $65 million before any cap increase. They also don’t have any players who are primed to break the bank. So when the dust settles and the Colts have re-signed their own, they will likely have a good deal of money still to spend to get better.
General Manager Chris Ballard has proven to be smart with the team’s money, not locking them up on a bunch of bad long-term deals like the Ryan Grigson regime so often did. But with all the holes this team has, making moves in free agency is inevitable. I would expect that they will use the draft to address some of the obvious issues with the roster such as the pass rush and the offensive line. But given how stagnant the offense has been, I wonder if Ballard would be willing to spend the money to bring in Le’Veon Bell? Would that move even make sense? That is what I want to dig into.
The Case For
The case in favor of signing Bell is pretty clear. The Colts have lacked a top tier running back since Edgerrin James. Frank Gore, while he has outperformed expectations for a 34-year-old running back, is not a game-wrecker. We don’t yet know what Marlon Mack could bring. What we do know, is that Le’Veon Bell is an incredible weapon still very much in his prime.
Regardless of how terrified you are about the Andrew Luck shoulder saga, having a game-changing running back who can both catch passes out of the backfield and dominate on the ground can take a ton of pressure off of whoever is under center.
Personally, I believe that will be Andrew Luck, but that is for another story. With a running back of Bell’s quality keeping defenses honest, guys like T.Y. Hilton can do what they do best: torch defenses deep.
It would add a dimension to the Colts’ offense that just isn’t there. It would also keep the defense from getting stuck in the position to give up games late because it would allow the Colts to grind out the clock in those games where they lead.
With Mack showing flashes, this move would allow the Colts to continue to develop him without completely relying on him, while still sending in an explosive change-of-pace back to Bell when he is off the field.
Given how many other holes the Colts will need to fill through the draft, it may be prudent to get a back in free agency and keep those draft picks for the defense and the offensive line. If you decide to do that and you have a ton of money, as the Colts do, why not get the best guy available?
The Case Against
The first argument many people will make is that the offensive line is more important to be addressed. I agree. I think it is so important to address that I would rather the Colts spend draft picks on linemen than on running backs. But the point is a valid one. Bell’s style is not exactly conducive to a line that allows defenders to get the handoff instead of the running back. He is patient, taking time to let blocks develop, then hitting the hole. Patience is not a virtue that behooves anyone protected by the Colts’ offensive line.
For that reason, he might not be the best fit. Personally, I think that behind a line that has all its starters, and a handful of free agents and draft picks to boot, he would be able to find success. It also doesn’t hurt to have Andrew Luck throwing the passes, because he isn’t getting burned by blitzes the same way as Brissett, and he is not afraid to let the ball go either.
The other argument that will undoubtedly be made is that he is just too expensive. That is probably true. Players will continue to get more and more expensive. But the Colts will have money to burn, and players like Le’Veon Bell don’t just drop out of the sky. Could Ballard grab an offensive star by pure luck from a later round in the draft? Absolutely. But that is hard to do and there is no guarantee that it happens.
The last knock on this move would be that Bell has not been a model player in the league. He has missed time due to suspension in two different seasons. This is not something that can be ignored. He has violated the substance abuse policy twice, and that makes him a risk.
The overwhelming conclusion I came to when weighing this move was that the Colts should go for it. If they could swing a three or four year deal for Bell they could essentially lock him up for the remainder of his prime. If they front-loaded his deal so that they were not nailed later on when they may need the money to re-sign some of their young talents, it would give them a dangerous weapon that would not damage them from a cap perspective going forward.
While this would not completely fix the problems the Colts’ offense has had, putting a dual-threat running back in play would certainly have an immediate impact on what the offense could do. Most importantly, making this move in free agency would mean not having to use a mid-round draft pick on a running back, where it might be more prudent to look at inside linebacker or guard options.
What are your thoughts on a move like this?
Would you like to see the Colts sign Le’Veon Bell in the offseason?
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