Star RB Le’Veon Bell, yet again, stalled in his talks with the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday, putting the running back on track to hit free agency next March.
On the surface, this is just intriguing league news for general fans, and a headache for the Terrible Towels, but this actually could impact Atlanta’s future in more than one way.
First, consider this Adam Schefter speculation.
Whoa.— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) July 16, 2018
"I think it's possible Le'Veon Bell sits out first half of the year if he doesn't get a long term deal done." -@AdamSchefter on @SiriusXMNFL.
"The goal at that point would be to hit 2019 free agency healthy, not rack up another 400 touches."
Schefty’s speculation here actually works in Atlanta’s favor. The Falcons will head up to Pittsburgh in early October for an AFC matchup, and if Bell wasn’t on the field, that would make it substantially easier for the team to get a key road win early in the year. In Bell’s absense would be young RB James Conner, a good backup who would provide much less of a dual-threat like Bell would.
The Steelers still have Antonio Brown on their offense, who is always a bear to deal with, but missing Bell would be a definite advantage for the Falcons in their visit to Heinz Field.
The next slice of this considers Bell indeed reaching free agency in March. No, this is not to speculate the Falcons would be interested in him. They’d sooner be interested in Oscar the Grouch than the league’s best running back who’s poised to strike a record deal.
No, this considers Tevin Coleman, who will enter free agency in the same class as Bell.
The 2019 RB class is actually fairly stocked, with Bell, Coleman, Jay Ajayi, Mark Ingram, Ty Montgomery, Latavius Murray, Bilal Powell, Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Ameer Abdullah, Zach Zenner, Charcandrick West, LeGarette Blount and C.J. Anderson part of the group who will be angling for new deals.
That’s a lot of guys in line to get paid at a position that’s, right or wrong, becoming devalued as time goes on. But, if you look at the field, Coleman will be one of the alluring “consolation prizes” to the team who isn’t able to sign Bell. That probably positions him to make even more than Jerick McKinnon made when he went to San Francisco (four years, $30 million) for a cash-flushed team who just missed out on signing Bell and needs an explosive play maker.
Folks, we need to prepare for Coleman to head elsewhere. The Falcons aren’t going to have the money to re-sign him with all the other deals on the horizon. The only way Coleman stays is if Devonta Freeman is cut or traded at some point in the next two years, which isn’t likely, even with the latter’s 2017 troubles with concussions.
When Bell sets the record for what a running back makes every season, the second wave will hit, and it’ll be too steep a price for Atlanta to pay to retain their explosive RB. The Devonta and Tevin Show might indeed be in its last season.
The smaller part to this is that what it means for Julio Jones. It’s probably just something Jones’ camp will use as a “potential outcome” to scare the Falcons with, lest they see their star offensive player sit out some of the season. Though, it feels like Jones is in a different spot, kind of. The worst that’s likely to happen there is Jones missing a good little chunk of training camp until the Falcons eventually blink, which we all know they will do at some point in this process. Obviously, Julio missing actual games is not something Atlanta wants, so you can bet the Falcons won’t want to wind up in this kind of situation.
So, a few angles to consider, you see. Bell holding out could help Atlanta in the short term when early October rolls around, his new deal could make it much harder to keep Tevin and this will, no doubt, come up in the Julio Jones room, at least once.
See, there’s always a Falcons angle! Maybe even three!