NBC Ninja Warrior host and former NFL defensive lineman Akbar Gbaja-biamila correctly stated that former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown would land with the Oakland Raiders on Thursday. Now he has tweeted that free agent running back Le’Veon Bell will land with the Baltimore Ravens.
Though Gbaja-biamila claims not to be a “news-breaker”, he even tweeted that the potential trade of Brown to the Buffalo Bills was a “fake trade”. He may not be a reporter, but he is a former NFL player — playing parts of four seasons in the NFL with the aforementioned Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins. His older brother, Kabeer Gbaja-biamila, played nine seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
It’s not wildly impossible that the younger Gbaja-biamila heard Brown’s news through the grapevine and decided to stick with his gut. He played for the Raiders — the same team that Brown will now play for. He (CAA Sports) isn’t however, paired with the same agent as Brown (Rosenhaus Sports) or Bell (The Sports & Entertainment Group).
Bell has been linked to the Ravens since they moved to Lamar Jackson as the starting quarterback in Week 11 of the regular season. Jackson’s ability to run the ball, creating more misdirection for his running backs could prove fruitful for a Bell-Baltimore union.
In 2018, Bell’s cap number was set to $14,544,000 — the highest in the NFL. He didn’t play during the entire season for the Steelers, but over his first five seasons, he averaged 128.9 yards from scrimmage per game. That is the best of any stretch since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
If Baltimore were to sign him, the sixth-year running back would give the team their best pass-catcher out of the backfield since Ray Rice. With 312 receptions for 2,660 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, Bell could give Jackson another safety valve early on in his career.
At 27-years old, he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and has taken a year off from football. It’s expected that Bell has a great deal of mileage left in the tank. It’s also expected that he will look for a massive payday come March 13 at 4 p.m. that exceeds what was supposed to be his salary of $14.5 million in 2018.
According to Over The Cap, Baltimore currently has $19,313,357 in cap room for the 2019 season. Once Baltimore finalizes its deal with the Denver Broncos to ship out quarterback Joe Flacco, the team’s cap space will jump to $29,243,357. Though that would be enough money to sign Bell alone, Baltimore would still need to bring back key defenders or decide to sign others.
The team will let middle linebacker C.J. Mosley test free agency, along with linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith. They attached second-round tenders to defensive lineman Michael Pierce and linebacker Patrick Onwuasor. Baltimore also needs to find a replacement for safety Eric Weddle, who was cut on Wednesday and subsequently signed with the Los Angeles Rams on Friday.
In addition to defense, the Ravens have to address the wide receiver and offensive line positions through the draft or free agency. It’s been an oft-discussed topic off bringing in bigger and stronger offensive linemen that fit the mold of a Greg Roman offense. The same could be said for adding physical receivers in the draft.
“We talk a lot about Lamar and let’s face it — it takes all 11 on the field to make it work,” Roman said during his introductory press conference in February. “So, we talk about Lamar a lot and his unique skillset and his talent, but we’ve got to have a strong, powerful offensive line. That’s where it all starts, is domination up front and control up front.
“I don’t care what passes — unless you want to be throwing one-step screen passes the whole game, you better be able to block people. And, I don’t care what back you get. If there’s no space to run, he’s going to be fighting an uphill battle. So, it all starts up front.”
Currently, the Ravens are looking to upgrade at left guard and center. T.J. Lang was discussed as a possible name by a previous article, but he too would cost Baltimore against the cap. As for receiver, Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore are currently the number one and two receivers on the roster. Chances are that Baltimore will look to improve upon the position in the draft.
Though Baltimore would most likely appreciate having one of the top running backs in the game, they would also need to figure out if it’s just a luxury. The team has an exclusive rights free agent by the name of Gus Edwards. The rookie running back rushed for 137 yards for 718 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games.
Will Baltimore need to sign Bell?
It honestly depends on what they want their identity to be. Are they going away from the less flashy offenses of the past and fully stock their shelves with top-flight talent? How much will contract re-structures, possible trades and cuts affect their decision?
Each of these are questions that will be answered by Ravens brass in the coming days — especially general manager Eric DeCosta.