After making the deal for Antonio Brown, the Raiders should easily follow with Le’Veon Bell high on their free agent wish list.
For a few years prior to 2018, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell made up one of the most productive wide receiver-running back duos in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then Bell sat out last season, rather than play under the franchise tag again, and now Brown has been traded to the Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders will also rework Brown’s contract, and make him the highest paid wide receiver in the league. The exact numbers are not out yet, but before adding Brown’s cap hit Oakland has over $60 million in cap space ($61 million, via Spotrac; $63.68 million, via Over The Cap). So there’s room to make moves in free agency when the legal tampering period starts Monday.
Bell-to-the-Raiders rumors are not new, with their anticipated cap space this offseason and a looming move to Las Vegas bringing a need for buzz. Brown will bring some buzz with him, obviously, but adding Bell would add to that as well as fill another need area.
Marshawn Lynch averaged 4.2 yards per carry before going down with a core muscle injury last year, so it appears he has something left in the tank. The Raiders playing in Oakland at least one more season makes Lynch’s desire to return more likely, but even with some question marks after a year out Bell would be an upgrade.
Brown will $30 million guaranteed from the Raiders, with a boost in total value over the next three years to $50.125 million. So it’s easy to point to, with his shelf life as a running back in mind, Oakland making an offer along those same lines to Bell.
One question attached to Bell will be the length of deal he’s looking for. Any team could add some flexible years to an offer though, rooted in guarantee dates, roster bonuses and not likely to be earned incentives, and thus make Bell’s agent look better when a deal is first reported. But the root of a three-year, front-loaded, mutually friendly commitment would remain.
For what it’s worth, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has begun following Bell on Twitter. In some way that’s an unrestricted avenue to recruit Bell to Oakland, with the fresh selling point of a reunion with Brown.