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March 08, 2019

Mailbag: With some cap flexibility, should the Eagles pursue signing Le'Veon Bell?

Eagles NFL
030819LeVeonBell Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports


In our Eagles chat this week, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow. (We'll probably have another one over the weekend.)

Question from JAM: Are the Eagles interested in Le’Veon Bell, and if so, how much? With Bell’s social media interaction, as well as the Eagles’ need at RB, and cap space having been freed up, it seems to be a real possibility.

The social media stuff is fun, but it doesn’t really mean anything. Surely, Bell would find the Eagles to be a nice landing spot, if, you know, they pay him what he wants, which is what will really matter.

If I were Howie Roseman (or any other GM for that matter), I would have zero interest in Bell. None. Bell is essentially looking for $50 million guaranteed, which would eclipse what Todd Gurley got from the Rams last July.

The fact that Steelers running backs were just as productive as Bell in his absence puts major doubts in my mind about how great a player he even is. Here's a comparison of Bell's last season (in 2017), and what his replacements did in 2018:

Steelers RB Rush Yards YPC TD 
 Le'Veon Bell (2017) 3211,291 4.0 
 James Conner and Jaylen Samuels (2018) 271 1,229 4.5 12 

And as receivers out of the backfield:

 Steelers RBRec Yards YPC TD 
 Le'Veon Bell (2017)85 655 7.7 
James Conner and Jaylen Samuels (2018) 81 696 8.6 

Surely, Bell has good size and some receiving ability, but if I’m going to be making him the highest paid back in the game, I better be getting that, or at least something close to it. I don’t think that’s what he is, by a long shot. He’s not Ezekiel Elliott. He’s not Saquon Barkley. He’s not Gurley. He’s not even close, in my view.

At a minimum, Bell isn’t as good as he thinks he is. Even if his market doesn’t develop and he is forced to sign a less lucrative deal, I still don’t even want him, given that he was already willing to sit out a season over money, when he was set to make $14.5 million.

And then just philosophically, the idea of a three-down bell cow back just doesn’t do much for me, personally. It’s well-documented that running backs wear out very quickly in the NFL. They have short shelf lives. So you’re likely not getting a long-term solution for that kind of money either, considering Bell already has over 1,600 touches over his five-year career.

Oh, and then I think there’s also something to the idea that three-down backs wear out over the course of individual seasons. For example, Gurley was amazing to start the season in 2018, but in the playoffs, he was invisible.

And finally, on a side note, if you sign Bell, he’s almost certainly going to cancel out the third-round compensatory pick the Eagles would be getting for losing Nick Foles.

Pass. All day, PASS on Le’Veon Bell.

Question from SPQR13: Does Carson buckle under the pressure that the organization and fanbase will now put on him to win and stay healthy now that Nick Foles is not here, or does he become better as a quarterback?

Well, he either stays healthy, or doesn’t. He has some control over that, in terms of taking measures to protect his body, but that'll mostly be luck. In terms of handling the pressure to perform, I have no worries whatsoever about Wentz’s mindset. He’s an outstanding talent, and he’s going to be another year removed from his injury. I believe he’s going to be great once again, after a season in which he was merely good.

Question from Kimmy Kempski: Will the Eagles draft BPA at a position of need in the first round? Or will they use another method?

There’s always a mix of drafting for the best players, and for needs. If the best player on their board is a tight end, for example, they’re not taking him. In a draft like this, where they're not ideally positioned at pick No. 25, I think the Eagles might be “needs attackers." I think they’ll identify moments in the draft before their pick where the value of a player at a position of need (DT, for example) exceeds or matches a particular draft slot, and they’ll try to move up to get him.

What they should not do, and what has proven to be an awful strategy over and over, is to identify one or two positions of need, and then just taking the best player at one of those positions when you're picking, regardless of the other talent available. I believe the Eagles will not make that mistake.

Question from Lucas: How active do you expect the Eagles to be in the trade market?

Howie makes trades every year, and he’s no doubt talking to teams around the league. I’d be very surprised if they didn’t make at least one deal. There could be several.

Question from Starr: Do the Eagles bring in Blake Bortles if he is released by Jacksonville?

Guys like Bortles, Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Teddy Bridgewater are going to get paid good money. Not starter money, but good backup money, and those guys aren’t cheap. If you get a guy like that, he’s your backup. There’s no “competition” at that point, because you better not be paying a guy good money to be your third QB.

I’m personally a big Nate Sudfeld guy. I think he’s talented, and capable of being the No. 2. Signing one of the four guys noted above would be a clear indication that the team doesn’t think Sudfeld can be the No. 2. I believe they’re either going to draft a late-round quarterback to develop, or bring in a cheaper guy who can maybe push Sudfeld a bit, but who Sudfeld should easily dispatch of, assuming his progression continues.

Question from Bob: Does anyone have a forecast for when Jordan Mailata may be ready for regular season game action, or is he a complete enigma until the preseason starts? It would be nice to have a decent evaluation of his potential in order to plan for life after Peters.

We (as in, the media) don’t get to watch practices anymore after the third week or so of training camp. So the last we saw of Mailata was the same as you – the last preseason game.

The team will surely have some kind of forecast on if/when they think he might be ready to play some kind of role in 2019, and whether or not he can be a starter some day. They have a full season of tape of him in practice to watch, and they’ll also know by now what kind of person and competitor he is.

Obviously, we’re in uncharted territory here, as it’s not often a guy plays his first football ever in an NFL preseason game. My personal answer is, I don’t know, but he’ll be a fun player to watch in training camp. The oddball nature of his situation certainly adds a new level of intrigue to the LT spot, and all the decisions surrounding it, from whether or not Jason Peters returns, to how the team addresses OT in the draft. My apologies for this wholly unsatisfying answer, but it is what it is. 

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