Le’Veon Bell to the Colts? The Ravens would make more sense. @RobBob17 looks at some of the biggest names set to hit NFL free agency and where they could land.
With NFL free agency set to open at 4:00 pm EST on March 13th, a handful of players will find themselves with robust contracts and new roles in new systems.
A team that will have their fingerprints all over the free agency landscape will be the Indianapolis Colts, with roughly $122 million in cap space at their disposal. The speculation has grown rampant over the year linking Le’Veon Bell with Indianapolis.
While it wouldn’t come as a shock to see Colts owner Jim Irsay go after Bell, let’s not forget the Colts are the same franchise that only five years ago parted ways with a first round pick for Trent Richardson. Richardson “rewarded” the Colts’ investment in him by rushing for only 977 yards on 316 carries (3.1 yards per carry) over 29 games as a Colt, and might I remind you that came with Andrew Luck playing at an All-Pro level. The Colts haven’t treated the running back position nearly the same ever since that debacle, and I suspect Irsay will have Richardson in the back of his mind before throwing a truckload of money at Bell.
Let’s look at some of the biggest names slated to hit the open market with their best, realistic destination for fantasy purposes.
Le’Veon Bell – Baltimore Ravens
The crowned jewel of the 2019 Free Agency class. Bell has been the ultimate enigma over the past calendar year during his franchise-tag stand off with the Rooney family and Pittsburgh Steelers, but all will soon be forgotten when he cashes in on his sought-after free agency. The Ravens currently have $34.6 million in cap room for 2019 and that number will jump significantly if/when they decide to part ways with former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.
Baltimore also has the league’s least amount of money committed to the running back position for 2019, with only $800K on the books. Baltimore’s ball-control offense with Lamar Jackson at the helm is tailor-made for Bell, providing a picture-perfect backfield marriage for years to come. Bell’s ability to catch the ball at a high level out of the backfield should help expedite Jackson’s development as a passer. Did I mention that Bell gets to play the Steelers twice a year? The NFL’s greatest rivalry only gets better from here, folks.
Kareem Hunt – Chicago Bears
The obvious asterisk regarding Hunt is the unknown suspension looming following his release from the Kansas City Chiefs. Hunt is undoubtedly looking at a multi-game absence after he’s reinstated by the NFL.
Bears running back Jordan Howard left a lot to be desired in his first year in Matt Nagy’s offense, accounting for only 935 yards with a massive volume of 250 carries, averaging a pedestrian 3.7 yards per carry. Do you remember back in August when reports out of Chicago claimed that Howard’s hands were improving, and the Bears weren’t taking him off the field on third downs? The third-year running back had career lows in targets and receptions with the emergence of Tarik Cohen. The writing is on the wall for a change in Chicago’s backfield with reports already leaking of a possible reunion between Hunt and his former Chiefs offensive coordinator.
The Bears rank 27th in the league with only $2.2 million committed to the running back position in 2019. Chicago currently has a little less than $20 million in cap space this offseason, which will certainly help considering Hunt will not command mega-dollars on the open market.
Nick Foles – New York Giants
Speaking of writing on the wall, if the Ravens can move on from their former Super Bowl MVP, so can the G Men. New York has gone 8-23 over the past two years with Eli Manning driving the franchise off a cliff. What better way to send Eli packing than bringing in another Super Bowl MVP? Foles won’t have to travel far in order to find success as a starter, allowing him to stay in the division and stick it to the Eagles.
The Giants currently have $27.8 million in cap room, but they can create an additional $5 million by releasing Manning before March 17th. Would Foles be willing to sign a team friendly contract like Case Keenum’s 2 years/$36 million with Denver in order to be surrounded by Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr. and Evan Engram? Opting for Foles instead of a young quarterback in the upcoming draft would allow the Giants to focus on improving their offensive line, with eyes on offensive tackles Jawaan Taylor from Florida or Oklahoma’s Cody Ford with the sixth overall pick. It’s tough to imagine a better landing spot for Big Stick Nick.
Adam Humphries – Arizona Cardinals
Arizona is going full Air Raid with the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury, and with that comes a dire need for quality pass catchers. The 2018 second round draft pick Christian Kirk impressed in spurts during his rookie campaign, but the cupboard is bare outside of him. With Larry Fitzgerald teetering on retirement, the Cardinals need to surround 2018 first round quarterback Josh Rosen with a competent receiving core, particularly out of the slot.
Wes Welker and Danny Amendola put up astronomical numbers in Mike Leach’s offense in Lubbock and Humphries could be the next “gym rat” in line. Humphries spent 78.4% of his snaps out of the slot this past season in Tampa Bay, producing 76 receptions, 816 yards, and five touchdowns. A match made in Air Raid heaven.
Golden Tate – New Orleans Saints
The Saints have the luxury of scheming multiple difference makers in their offense, but they’ve been without a quality second receiver for far too long. While Michael Thomas led the way for New Orleans with 125 receptions, the next receiver caught 97 fewer balls.
Tate’s best years as a professional came with Joe Lombardi as his offensive coordinator in Detroit, and Lombardi has been the Saints’ quarterbacks’ coach since 2016. Even though Tate had a turbulent 2018, he showed early in the year just how much value he has left if he’s in the right offense. In seven games with Detroit, Tate recorded 44 receptions, 517 yards, and three touchdowns. Those numbers translate to 101 receptions, 1,182 yards, and seven touchdowns over a 16-game split. The Saints wouldn’t demand that sort of production out of Tate, but he could adequately fill the role of their number two receiver.
Tevin Coleman – Kansas City Chiefs
Considering it’d be uncharacteristic of Andy Reid to implement a committee approach to his backfield; Coleman’s skillset undeniably fits what Reid covets for his running backs. His ability to handle double digit carries while possessing big-play speed out of the screen game has been a longtime staple for Reid’s running backs; Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, and Kareem Hunt. Reid has turned elite pass catching backs into fantasy gold throughout his career.
Think back to 2016 when Coleman was in a committee backfield with Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator. While Reid may be the best screen-game play designer in NFL history, Shanahan is no slouch himself, and Coleman flourished in that role. Coleman amassed 941 total yards, 31 receptions, and 11 touchdowns in just 13 games as the 1B in Shanahan’s 2016 Falcons offense. Reid and Coleman could find similar production on a cost-effective “prove-it” deal, adding yet another dynamic playmaker to the high-flying Kansas City offense.