The Pittsburgh Steelers mishandled Le’Veon Bell the minute training camp began and they are mishandling Antonio Brown. They treated LVB like he was nothing more than a complementary piece to Big Ben, causing him to become a free agent. Now, Brown wants out.
The body language between AB and Big Ben was negative all season. Whether it was AB wanting the ball more or Big Ben feeling like he should be in a certain area on routes, it was an absolute mess. Ultimately, their bad blood came to a boiling hot climax as AB was benched in Week 17 after skipping practices following a spat with Big Ben.
Financially, acquiring Bell would take a $15 million cap hit along with $45 million in guaranteed money. That deal would mirror Todd Gurley’s contract who Bell rivals as the best back in the league. For Brown, he is under contract for the next three years and has a $17 million cap hit. It might take a couple first rounders (maybe more because of the Amari Cooper trade).
Getting Bell or Brown should be a priority for many teams. Yet, there are some teams that could alter the complexion of the league by adding both players.
This is list is based on a combination of financial wherewithal, championship aspirations, and realistic destinations for Bell and Brown.
The Texans have $68 million in cap space and could use an upgrade in the backfield with Bell. Lamar Miller has underachieved in Houston since arriving from South Beach, eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing once. In addition, he has never accumulated more than 400 receiving yards.
LVB would give Deshaun Watson the underneath threat he needs as well as a potent runner. Adding Brown would give them the best receving duo in the league as they already feature fellow top five receiver in DeAndre Hopkins.
However, there is a catch here.
Watson is going to need to get paid eventually and it’s hard to say how costly he will be with peers like Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, and Patrick Mahomes potentially setting the market. In addition, this offseason they need to make a decision on Jadeveon Clowney.
Some tough decisions lie ahead for Houston if they choose to embark down this path. One thing is for sure, they would become the force they’ve desperately wanted to be since the Matt Schaub era.
Another AFC South team that could make a big splash by adding AB and LVB are the Colts. They were one of the biggest surprises in 2018 as they went 10-6 after going 4-12 a year ago. The biggest difference? A healthy Andrew Luck.
Luck returned and threw for 4,539 yards and 39 touchdowns. He had guys like Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines toting the rock while Dontrelle Inman, Chester Rogers, and Ryan Grant served as his receivers. Hardly recognizable talents to say the least.
With $122 million in cap space this offseason, the Colts are already an early favorite to land Bell. If they catch Pittsburgh desperate enough, they could land Brown as well. Luck won 10 games with a mediocre roster so imagine what he could do with two superstars.
Kansas City Chiefs
This is probably the least likely destination for Bell and Brown because the Chiefs only have $42 million to spend. Not to mention, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers would hand over Brown to a powerhouse like the Chiefs. But, it’s a fun one to say the least.
Patrick Mahomes just threw for over 5,000 yards and over 50 touchdowns. Brown would make the lives of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce easier and vice versa. However, Bell would be the bigger difference maker here.
Bell’s patient running could keep that woebegone defense on the sideline. In addition, the Chiefs could milk the clock earlier in the fourth quarter, reducing Mahomes need to be perfect.
In realty, the Chiefs could only get one of these guys. The rest of their money needs to go to Mitch Morse and maybe Anthony Sherman.
New York Jets
Sam Darnold needs help and he needs it fast in New York. Whether it’s in the trenches, who he hands the ball to, or who he throws it to, he needs help. Bell being a free agent couldn’t have come at a better time as the Jets ranked 26th in rushing.
As far as the aerial assault, not a single player went over 800 yards as a pass-catcher. Brown typically hits that mark by game nine.
There should be no games played this offseason as the J-E-T-S have $106 million to work with. Trading a few picks to get Brown should be a no-brainer and signing LVB should come with ease. At that point, we will start to have a real idea of how good Darnold is.
San Francisco 49ers
George Kittle made this an interesting idea when he mentioned Brown on Twitter.
Brown was not shy about his response either.
So, the Niners seem to be on the fast track to landing the first half of the dynamic duo. Brown would benefit from Kittle owning the middle of the field while Marquise Goodwin takes safeties away. This would ultimately make Jimmy Garappolo’s life easier.
Bell would takeover the duties in the backfield despite the Niners promising tandem of Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida.
The only concern here is they only have $58 million in cap space and still have to pay budding star DeForest Buckner. If the Niners can get Bell and Brown, it’s a matter of time before the Bay Area boasts the team in football as well as basketball.
2018 showed us that Russell Wilson is every bit the elite quarterback we thought he was.
Doug Baldwin Jr. and Tyler Lockett are good, but they aren’t anything like AB. Pairing Wilson with an elite talent like Brown would propel him into some serious greatest quarterback of all-time discussions. Brown produced magic during Big Ben’s scramble drills. He would be scary with the lethal accuracy and the improv skills of Wilson.
The Seahawks signing Bell would be icing on the cake. Chris Carson is a good back, but, like his receiving peers, he is nowhere near as special as the Pro Bowl talent that is Bell.
The Seahawks just closed the door on the Legion of Boom, an era defined by defense. How about starting a new chapter spearheaded by Wilson, Bell, and Brown? That would certainly erase the negative stigma around how they mishandled their core in Seattle at one point. Not to mention, another Lombardi trophy could be on the horizon.
It won’t be easy in acquiring Bell and Brown. They will come with a hefty price tag and they are big personalities, meaning they will speak their mind. Pulling a fast one over the Steelers might need to occur, meaning wait to sign Bell after acquiring Brown in a trade first.
The Steelers misguided approach with their two Pro Bowlers has brought on a rare opportunity. One that should be seized by one of the teams above.