Damian Lillard is an Oakland native and diehard Raiders fan. The star Portland Trail Blazers point guard was pretty pumped about his favorite team’s trade for receiver Antonio Brown, and took to Twitter suggesting running back Le’Veon Bell join his former Pittsburgh teammate in silver and black.
Bell responded with three emojis – that’s how the kids converse these days – showing someone running really fast.
Will he run straight to the Oakland Raiders? Jon Gruden loves Bell’s game. He would be a perfect scheme fit, but Bell’s expected to make a beeline to the biggest paycheck.
The Raiders have interest in pursuing Bell, but there’s some question whether that’s possible or beneficial to the team after giving Antonio Brown and offensive Trent Brown massive contracts thus far.
Bell should be a hot commodity on the open market, with the New York Jets, Chicago Bears reportedly among several interested teams ready to pay top dollar.
The Raiders have the cap space to go after Bell. ESPN reported Monday they might not have the liquid cash required to do another big-money deal – fully guaranteed portions of NFL deals are placed in an escrow account -- though there should be a hefty amount of skepticism surrounding that notion. That report could play a role in future free-agent pursuits, but even lower-revenue NFL owners can still do business acquiring players and can move money around to get deals they want done.
That’s why acquiring Bell should remain in the realm of possibility. Whether that would be smart money spent is another matter given how many pressing needs remain. If his market unexpectedly decreases, the Raiders would go hard after Bell. It's hard, however, to imagine them matching what other teams are expected to offer.
Bell would be awesome in Gruden’s system, especially with Antonio Brown keeping defenses honest. Bell can do everything as a rusher and receiver, and carry a heavy workload. Bell’s patient and smart and athletic and steady productive when on the field.
It’s been a while, however, considering he sat out the 2018 season over a contract impasse with Pittsburgh.
He’s going to want massive dollars to start up again, and paying his market rate might not be the best way to rebuild a deficient Raiders roster. They have needs all over the place, and a few of them could be addressed instead of playing Bell’s freight.
They need a veteran free safety and cornerback depth. How about a slot receiver or a guard or an off-the-ball linebacker?
The Raiders should be able to run well, even without Bell, if the offensive line gets right. Jalen Richard's expected to re-join the fray on a second-round restricted free agent tender. The team has high hopes for first-year rusher Chris Warren III, who spent last season on injured reserve with a knee injury.
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The Raiders would like Marshawn Lynch back if he wants to return, and could bring Doug Martin back after the veteran performed well in last season’s second half.
Going after Bell must be tempting. The Raiders offense would be scary with Bell in the backfield, the offensive line addressed and Antonio Brown already in the mix. Time will tell if they end up doing that this week in free agency, competing with other teams questing to sign Bell to a new contract.