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September 26, 2018

NFL Rumors: Are Eagles 'sleeper team' to trade for Le'Veon Bell?

The Eagles' most recent injury report trickled out Wednesday, the first of this week ahead of their tilt with the Titans Sunday, and Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles remain marked "did not practice."

While Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams filled in relatively well in a win against the Colts — they combined with Carson Wentz to rush for 152 yards — the team is thin at running back.

Across the state in Pittsburgh, reports have surfaced that the Steelers are actively entertaining trade offers for star running back Le'Veon Bell, who continues to hold out after refusing to sign a franchise tag following a summer that did not land him the big contract he desired.

Bell could be on the move. Are the Eagles really a match?

CBS's Jason La Confora thinks it's a match made in heaven, but as he explained on the Pick Six podcast, his logic may be a bit of a stretch:

"[This would be] the ultimate Howie Roseman move. Trade Nick Foles, get something back for him and then blammo, create cap space and money. Go to your owner and say 'I'm going to turn Nick Foles into Le'Veon Bell, all you gotta do is pay him.' Jay Ajayi is up at the end of the year anyway. They have no commitment to him. Sproles is banged up again. Do they really want to be going into games with Corey Clement and whatever else? That's my sleeper team. "With Carson, there's going to be a lot of three-step drops. Who better to go out there and save the day? They're obviously trying to win right now. They've already made a financial commitment so that's not an owner who is going to let $8 million scuttle the chance to get an All-Pro, every down running back. "What's imperative right now more than anything else in Philadelphia? Pass protection. Who's a better pass protecting running back than Le'Veon Bell? Think about it." says the Eagles have a little more than $4 million in cap space. Clearly, Bell isn't willing to risk his body for what he was paid previously — or without a long term contract — which means even a trade to the Eagles or to any other team isn't a guarantee he would suit up and take the field. He wants a contract.

Todd Gurley's $57.5 million deal is likely the standard Bell is measuring himself against, a four-year deal with a great deal of money guaranteed. The Eagles are spending just over $5 million on running backs this year, the 12th-cheapest in football.

The Eagles have a bevy of players due for raises, most important among them Carson Wentz. Jay Ajayi, Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks and Ronald Darby will surely not do the Eagles any favors as they are already expected to be $20 million over the salary cap marker for the 2019 season (as of right now). The numbers don't really suggest Philly can afford Bell, even if they want him.

And, of course, they'd have to part with what rumors suggest would need to be at least a third round pick, potentially more for Bell's services. The Eagles DO have two second round picks next year, but with aging players like Jason Peters and Darren Sproles potentially set to retire the list of needs will be longer in April of 2019.

What are the arguments for trading for Bell? Well, it isn't a hard one to make.

Rushing Yards Receiving Yards Total TD 
Le'Veon Bell (2017)1,291 65511 
Eagles RB combined (2017)1,78749613 
Le'Veon Bell (2016) 1,268 6169
Eagles RB combined (2016)1.63265417 

The Eagles regularly have one of the best rushing offenses in football thanks to their talented offensive line, but clearly Bell produces a large portion all by himself of what the Eagles' running backs by committee have created over the last two seasons. Bell touched the ball an NFL high 406 times last year. Six Eagles' running backs combined for 448 touches (rushing attempts and catches) in their Super Bowl campaign last year.

Bell is an every down back, and one of the best who has ever played the game. He would be a gigantic boost for the Eagles' offense — but an expensive one, and one who doesn't have the best history of being happy in his locker room.

Is the risk worth taking? Probably, yes. Will the Eagles spend the money and the draft picks to make the monster move? 

Howie Roseman has surprised before, so you can never say never — but it is a steep price for a team looking to build around Wentz for years to come.

Follow Evan on Twitter: @evan_macy

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