While the chances of the Pittsburgh Steelers trading Le’Veon Bell before the October 30 deadline always seemed unlikely, circumstances may have changed enough over the past 48 hours or so to make that dream a reality in 2018. With Le’Veon Bell suggesting he would return to Pittsburgh in Week 7, there is a possibility a window will open to get a deal done in time and a trade partner might be starting to emerge who could be crazy enough to agree to it.
Hours after it had been announced that the Philadelphia Eagles had placed running back Jay Ajayi on injured reserve with an ACL injury, it was also reported that they had restructured the contract of defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Having created an additional $6.5 million in salary cap space with this move, the Eagles are now in a position to absorb Bell’s remaining contract when this figure is added to the $4 million in cap room they already had available.
However, for those of you already packaging Bell up to send on his way, Adam Schefter of ESPN suggests you slow your roll.
Eagles restructured contract of Pro-Bowl DT Fletcher Cox on Friday, creating $6.5 million more of cap space this season and $11.7 million more next season, sources tell @mortreport and me. But Eagles have not pursued a trade for Le’Veon Bell and have no plans to, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 8, 2018
That being said, this report runs contrary to several from Jason La Canfora of CBS, who has written a number of articles in the past few weeks suggesting significant interest from Philadelphia in Bell.
Eagles, who as I have reported, had their eye on Le'Veon Bell for quite some time, have placed Jay Ajayi on IR. Hmm.— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) October 8, 2018
Should the Steelers’ star running back return at some point in Week 7, he would first need to sign his franchise tag, a move that would fix one of the stumbling block of facilitating a trade. Bell would still need to agree to being traded, but an incentive would be the possibility to earn an extra paycheck in 2018 and play in one less game, with the Eagles set to have a their bye in Week 9. A prospect that would surely be appealing to him.
At first, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network was the one pushing the speculative rumors about Pittsburgh’s interest in trading Bell, but it is interesting to note he has cooled somewhat on the idea as of late. Rapoport’s latest “update” on Sunday morning implied the Steelers’ absentee back had no interest in being traded after all, even if he didn't strictly rule it out.
From @NFLGameDay: #Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell’s focus is on playing in Pittsburgh and putting up numbers, I’m told. He’s not inclined to accept a trade at this point. That makes it even more difficult. pic.twitter.com/KIZY7vT7n2— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 7, 2018
After sending a fourth round draft pick to the Miami Dolphins for Ajayi in 2017, a player who is out of contract at the end of this season, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the Eagles could decide to do a similar thing this year. An indifferent start to the season for the defending Super Bowl champions, thanks in part to a struggling rushing attack, could make Bell seem like an obvious short term fix. For an organization that appears to have little regard for the value of draft picks, burning another one on an elite running back might not be the worst decision they have ever made either.
When Bell is still on the Steelers’ roster come November, the lesson to be learned here will be to never listen to wild rumors from the national media that you always thought sounded ridiculous, even if you did secretly hope they would turn out to be true.