The holdout of Bell, the star Pittsburgh Steelers running back who refuses to sign his franchise tag tender, has lasted long enough for every team and its fan base to mull how he’d look in their uniform. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell contemplated the wisdom of Washington trying to swing a deal for Bell, and it would be reasonable for fans to salivate of the prospect of Bell, a productive back and singular talent, in Washington.
But even though there are reasons fans are excited about the possibility, including the fact that the NFC East appears to be up for grabs, and Washington’s top two backs — Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson — suffered minor injuries in Monday’s loss to the Saints, the answer is clear: The Redskins shouldn’t do it.
To acquire Bell, it would take both draft capital and, presumably, future cap space — trading for Bell without giving him a long-term extension that convinces him to end his holdout would be pointless. One NFL executive estimated earlier this season that it would take either a first- or second-round pick to pry Bell from Pittsburgh. Let’s call it a second-rounder. Do the Redskins look like a team close enough to a Super Bowl that it could wisely skip the second round of the draft next year for a half-a-year rental of Bell? The Redskins need more depth in their secondary and offensive line and more talent everywhere, especially wide receiver. The Redskins are not a running back away from real contention. They’re just about an entire team away.
That covers the big-picture reason the Redskins shouldn’t trade for Bell. Running back is one of the Redskins’ least concerns -- especially from a longer-term perspective. Thompson might be their best offensive skill player, and while health has been an issue for him, he’s signed to an affordable contract. Rookie Derrius Guice, currently recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament after a promising preseason, remains Washington’s running back of the future.
There are factors that make a trade for Bell tempting. Peterson is already fading after a strong start, and his age means the wear of the season is only going to be harder on him. The struggles of the other three NFC East teams present an opportunity to sneak into the playoffs, and if they get in, who knows what could happen? Bruce Allen may need a home run to stabilize his standing in the organization, and Bell would at least represent a swing.
But overall, this looks like the type of move that the team might have made in past years, not one it should make now.