Le’Veon Bell Saga: That’s a Rap (Reportedly)
After much anticipation, speculation and innuendo, Le’Veon Bell finally did it late last night: He dropped his mixtape, “Life’s a Gamble.”
Oh, and the former Pittsburgh Steelers running back also acknowledged (sort of) on Twitter that he was signing with the New York Jets – news which had been broken by ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter several minutes earlier.
Bell’s tweet was cryptic (aren’t they all?), but it does appear that America’s yearlong debate over where Bell will play football is over and we can all go back to our regularly scheduled lives.
Unfortunately for Ravens fans who had hopes of snatching the two-time All-Pro away from the team’s arch rival, the only time they’re likely to see Bell play this season at M&T Bank Stadium is when the Jets come to town. (Yes, the same Jets who a day earlier reportedly snatched C.J. Mosley away from the Ravens. Baltimore football fans haven’t been this sore at the Jets since Broadway Joe did his thing in Super Bowl III.)
While the Bell-to-Baltimore rumors continued to run rampant yesterday, it’s still unclear if the Ravens finished as the apparent runner-up in the Bell sweepstakes or if they even made an offer. Were they a bridesmaid or just an unwitting bystander being used to make a suitor jealous? We may never know.
There also are conflicting opinions as to whether it’s a positive or negative that Bell most likely won’t be wearing a purple jersey this season. Adding a dynamic playmaker such as the 27-year-old Bell to an offense being built around quarterback Lamar Jackson and the running game had the fan base salivating. But once you wipe the spittle off your chin and take the emotion out of it, does it still feel like Bell would’ve been a good fit?
Last week, NFL.com columnist Adam Schein ranked Bell at No. 3 on his list of 2019’s riskiest free agents.
“You can easily make the case that Bell is the best running back in the NFL,” Schein wrote. “But, yeah, he just sat out for a full season. Some will say he was protecting himself for this payday. Others will question his love of the game. Furthermore, Bell has been suspended twice for violating the league's substance abuse policy. In five NFL seasons, he's played 16 games just once. And Bell's social-media habits present a potential distraction.”
Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens questioned Bell’s longevity. Even though he had the entire 2018 season to rest his body, he does have a lot of wear and tear on him.
“With more than 1,500 touches in just five seasons, Bell is one of the hardest-worked running backs in the NFL,” Stevens wrote. “As we’ve seen with running backs both in Baltimore and elsewhere, those carries quickly eat away at their career length. It’s not uncommon to see running backs completely fall apart seemingly overnight because of how heavily utilized they were in previous seasons. Just look to Ray Rice and his fall-off from 2012 to 2013 as a prime example of how things can change quickly for running backs in this league.”
Of course, there’s always the possibility that we’re rationalizing not having Bell in Baltimore rather than simply being rational. One thing that is clear is that Bell didn’t cash in to the level he had hoped. He reportedly turned down a five-year, $70 million offer from the Steelers last year, and he lost $14.5 million by sitting out the season.
But as they say, life’s a gamble.
Beckham Reportedly Headed to Browns in Blockbuster Trade
Several hours before the Bell news broke came the stunner that the Cleveland Browns reportedly agreed to trade for New York Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Just when the Ravens thought they’d caught a break by not having to face the sensational Antonio Brown twice every season came the sobering realization that they will have to face the sensational Beckham twice every season.
It goes without saying that Beckham to the Browns would be a game-changer. Even before the reported trade, the Browns were a sexy pick to win the AFC North this season. The addition of three-time Pro Bowl receiver to an offense that includes quarterback Baker Mayfield, running backs Nick Chubb and (possibly) Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Jarvis Landry would give the Browns a unit that has the potential to be the most explosive in the league.
The reported trade seemingly couldn’t come at a worse time for the Ravens (although there’s a long way to go before the regular season starts), who have parted ways with Eric Weddle and reportedly lost other defensive stalwarts Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley identified the best way for the Ravens to counter having Beckham join a division rival.
Um, yeah, about that.
The Ravens have only faced Beckham once, in 2016. Beckham ended the first half of that game with two catches for 11 yards and a costly fumble. He also spent some time in the locker room with a hip injury.
Beckham returned for the second half, however, and, well … oh, boy. He caught touchdown passes of 75 and 66 yards -- the latter coming with 1:24 remaining in the game to give the Giants a 27-23 victory -- and finished the day with eight catches for a career-best 222 yards, including 128 yards after the catch.
Pundits: Mark Ingram Would Be a Good Fit
The Ravens may not be getting Bell, but as was reported by multiple outlets yesterday, a two-time Pro Bowl running back -- specifically former New Orleans Saints star Mark Ingram -- could soon be in the fold.
The Ravens had been considered a good fit for Ingram, 29, since free agency predictions began this offseason. NFL.com’s Marc Sessler released one prediction for each team three weeks ago, and his pick for the Ravens was Ingram.
“Baltimore's pound-the-rock-down-your-throat attack was exposed in January's playoff loss to the Chargers,” Sessler wrote. “With Lamar Jackson at the controls, though, the Ravens aren't about to ditch their devotion to the run. I like the idea of new play caller Greg Roman unleashing a hammer-dropping ball-carrier like Ingram alongside Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon.”
ESPN’s Hensley also likes the potential addition of Ingram.
In addition to his ability as a runner, Ingram also has made an impact as a pass catcher, with 228 career receptions for 1,598 yards and five touchdowns over eight seasons.
Breshad Perriman: On Second Thought …
A few hours before the Browns reportedly traded for Beckham, it was reported that former Ravens first-round pick Breshad Perriman had agreed to re-sign with Cleveland for one year, $4 million.
Perriman apparently changed his mind, however, once he heard that Beckham was Browns bound.
The Browns reportedly let Perriman out of the agreement, and the 25-year-old wide receiver subsequently agreed to the same terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Perriman, who was selected 26th overall by the Ravens in the 2015 NFL Draft, was cut by the Ravens prior to the start of the 2018 season after three disappointing years in Baltimore.
He started to show flashes of his potential after signing with the Browns. In 10 games, he caught 16 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 21.3 yards per reception. He had perhaps his best game in a return to Baltimore in the regular-season finale, catching three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. But now Perriman apparently is out of the AFC North altogether.