Bell flirts with the Eagles, but is that potential match realistic?

PHILADELPHIA — Le’Veon Bell got the attention of not only the Philadelphia Eagles’ fan base but also some of their players with his post on social media over the weekend.

The star running back and free-agent-to-be sparked conversation by asking his Twitter followers, “So where do I go?” He chose to react to just one response — offering a “hmmm” and a pondering emoji when the Eagles were mentioned.

That didn’t go unnoticed by Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, tackle Lane Johnson and defensive end Chris Long, who clearly welcomed the idea.

Could this be the start of a beautiful friendship?

The Eagles need to upgrade at running back, no doubt. They finished 28th in rushing yards last season (1,570) and were second from the bottom in yards per attempt (3.9). Their leading individual rusher, rookie Josh Adams, ranked 41st in the NFL in rush yards (511). An inconsistent ground game held Philly back in 2018. It needs to invest in the position, especially with Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles set to become free agents.

Bell would provide a big-time upgrade at a position of need, and his presence would take considerable pressure off franchise quarterback Carson Wentz.

Bell is understandably going to be looking for a sizable pay day. That presents two problems. First, spending big money on the running back position runs counter to the Eagles’ general team-building philosophy. Their trio of backs during their 2017 Super Bowl season made a total of $2.3 million that year. The last time the organization spent serious money on a back was in 2015 with DeMarco Murray, and that’s when Chip Kelly was in charge of personnel decisions. It did not go well.

Even if they have deemed Bell to be the exception to their rule, there is a second issue: Philly is short on salary-cap space. The Eagles are projected to have a touch over $2 million in space at the moment, good for second-to-last in the league. They will free up money between now and the start of the league year on March 13 but are not in position to spend wildly, especially with Wentz due a mega-contract in the not-too-distant future.

Given these restrictions, it makes sense for Philly to go with a less expensive option in free agency and target the likes of FAU’s Devin Singletary or Iowa State’s David Montgomery in the draft. The Eagles have a pair of second-round picks this year, which increases the chance they spend a high pick on a running back for the first time since selecting LeSean McCoy 53rd overall in 2009.

In short, Bell does not fit into their plans given the current projection of his market.

However, it would be premature to rule the Eagles out altogether. Their interest level would likely spike if those projections do not hold up. We saw such a situation play out with Alshon Jeffery during the 2017 offseason. Philly wasn’t expecting to be in play for Jeffery, but pounced and signed him to a one-year, $9.5 million deal once Jeffery determined the best course of action was to take a “prove-it” contract, which he parlayed into a hefty extension by year’s end.

It could be that Bell doesn’t like the type of offers that come his way when free agency opens in a couple weeks. If that’s the case, a run for the Lombardi Trophy with the Steelers’ intrastate counterpart might go from intriguing to realistic.

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