It’s day one of the official tampering period before full-fledged free agency starts and one thing is abundantly clear, the Steelers are going to be priced out of the game.   Now that Anthony Hitchens has signed for a whopping $9 million per year, the hope for getting inside linebackers on the cheap is over.  Hitchens wasn’t even in the top-tier of a weak class of free agent linebackers.  Players like Zach Brown and Demario Davis can rightfully expect north of $10 million per season now.  In order to really fix the shortcomings on defense, Pittsburgh will have to get creative.  One way to do that is to make a trade that sheds salary, and brings a good player in return.  The best player to fit that description is…… you guessed it…….Le’veon Bell.  So here’s my proposal, Bell to the Raiders in exchange for Obi Melinfonwu and a second round pick.

How it makes sense for the Steelers:

This trade actually kills two birds with one stone.  It brings back a player at a position of need, and creates significant cap room in the process.  Obi Melinfonwu was the hot name coming out of last years combine.  His combination of size (6’4″ 224) and speed (4.4/40) had teams drooling over his potential.  So much so, he was drafted 56th overall by the Raiders despite playing at the University of Connecticut.  Melinfonwu suffered a miserable rookie season which consisted of two stints on the IR.  There is still plenty of upside for him though, provided he can stay healthy.  Melinfonwu would be the perfect complement to Sean Davis in the defensive backfield.  This would give the Steelers one of the fastest and most athletic safety duos in the NFL.

Now that the $14.5 million franchise tag is off the books, the Steelers can actually jump into the free agency game before it’s too late.  Kevin Colbert has been busy all off-season restructuring contracts to fit Bell under the cap.  Under this scenario he would have that $15 million to pick any linebacker he chose, with money leftover.  So now you’ve solved both weaknesses on defense before the draft has even started.

I know what you’re thinking, I just traded the best running back in the league……now what??  Well for starters the team now has picks 28 and 41 in the 2018 draft.  A draft that is deep with quality running backs.  How does Sony Michel at pick 28 grab you?  He was nearly unstoppable in the national championship game versus the near NFL caliber Alabama defense.  There are a slew of free agent backs that could help fill in for the loss of Bell as well.  Granted there’s not another back like Le’veon Bell in the league, but it’s been proven time and again that it doesn’t take a franchise back to win a Super Bowl.

How it makes sense for the Raiders:

This one seems like a no-brainer to me.  An offense with Carr, Cooper, and Bell is too much for the Raiders to resist.  New head coach Jon Gruden will certainly be in “win now” mode after taking over in Oakland.  The Raiders need a reliable running game to help struggling quarterback Derek CarrBell would do wonders to get his career back on track after his sophomore slump in 2017.  As far as including Melinfonwu in the deal, the Raiders already have two starting safeties in Karl Joseph and Reggie NelsonMelinfonwu is just a depth player at this point for Oakland.  This deal makes all the sense in the world from the Raiders perspective.  The only downside for them would be working out a long-term deal with Bell.  It’s sure to be a costly contract, but when has this team ever been shy about spending money?

How it makes sense for Le’veon Bell:

Of course none of this takes place unless Le’Veon Bell signs the franchise tag.  He can not be traded until he does so.  In order  for this to happen, the Steelers would have to let the two parties work out a deal before the trade.  Once Bell gets his contract, he’ll agree to sign the tag faster than you could imagine.  It’s a great situation for him with the other weapons on the Raiders offense.  Not to mention, what better place to spend all your new money than Vegas right?

This is a deal that makes sense on every level.  The Steelers will improve their defensive weaknesses, while the Raiders acquire an important piece to get them to the next level.  All the while Le’veon Bell gets the contract he believes is deserved.  Who knows after a trade like this, maybe we could see these two teams meet in the playoffs.  Possibly even the AFC Championship.  Wouldn’t that be something.