After sitting out the first four weeks of the season, star running back Le'Veon Bell told ESPN he doesn't expect to be traded by the Pittsburgh Steelers and will play football this season. He also said that despite all the issues, his first choice would still be to retire as a Steeler.
But he also said that if talks break down with the Steelers in the offseason, he believes the Eagles are on a short list of teams that would be interested in signing him if he becomes a free agent in March. Bell also mentioned the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, and Cleveland Browns as possible destinations.
"I know the guaranteed money will be there [in March]," Bell told ESPN. "If a team wanted to, they could definitely do what they needed to do to make me happy and satisfied."
Bell's comments follow speculation by CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora that the Eagles were a "sleeper team" to land Bell, one of the most versatile running backs in the league who is often credited for his pass-blocking ability.
"[This would be] the ultimate Howie Roseman move. Trade Nick Foles, get something back for him, and then blammo, create cap space and money," La Canfora said on the Pick Six Podcast last week. "Go to [Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie] and say, 'I'm going to turn Nick Foles into Le'Veon Bell. All you gotta do is pay him.' Jay Ajayi is up at the end of the year anyway. They have no commitment to him. [Darren] Sproles is banged up again. Do they really want to be going into games with Corey Clement and whatever else? That's my sleeper team."
The Steelers have explored trade options for Bell. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, his desire to return won't stop the team from trading the running back if an offer comes in that makes sense.
Bell reportedly turned down a $70 million contract offer from the Steelers in the offseason, primarily because it contained only $17 million in guaranteed money, much lower than the $45 million Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson received and the $31 million Todd Gurley got from the Los Angeles Rams. According to ESPN, Bell likened the $70 million offer to "monopoly money."
"It sucks having to sit out football," Bell told ESPN. "I want to win games and the playoffs. But I've gotta take this stand. Knowing my worth and knowing I can tear a ligament or get surgery at any time, I knew I couldn't play 16 games with 400 or more touches."