Don Wright/Associated Press
Le’Veon Bell is finally on the open market, and multiple teams are interested in signing the former Pittsburgh Steelers running back.
According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN (via Evan Silva of Rotoworld), the New York Jets are the clear favorites to sign Bell, but the San Francisco 49ers are also interested in him.
Ralph Vacchiano of SNY added a few other possibilities for Bell:
Ralph Vacchiano @RVacchianoSNY
I’ve heard from multiple NFL sources who tell me they believe the Jets are still the favorites to land Le’Veon Bell. The Bears, 49ers, Eagles and Raiders are other teams I’ve heard mentioned in connection with the Bell sweepstakes.
Among all of the options, the Jets and 49ers perhaps make the most sense. They both could use an offensive playmaker like Bell and have plenty of cap space.
Per Spotrac, San Francisco ranks seventh in the league with around $54.2 million available, while the Jets have the second-most space at $80.9 million. Either team could use some of that cap room to add a player who can improve its offense and help out its franchise quarterback.
The Jets didn’t have a single player with at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season. Promising players such as wide receiver Robby Anderson and running back Isaiah Crowell were inconsistent, while veterans failed to make much of an impact.
Adding Bell—who has topped 1,800 yards from scrimmage in each of his last three full seasons—could take pressure off Sam Darnold and turn around an offense that finished 29th in total yards last year.
The 49ers gave Jerick McKinnon a four-year, $30 million contract last March, but he tore his ACL in the preseason and missed the entire 2018 campaign. Second-year running back Matt Breida showed potential in his place, although he pales in comparison to Bell, a two-time first-team All-Pro.
If San Francisco releases McKinnon after June 1, it can save $3.75 million toward the 2019 cap, per Spotrac.
Although Bell missed the entire 2018 season due to a contract dispute, he is a proven difference-maker. He could make an enormous impact for either of these teams.