As training camp approaches for two AFC North teams, it appears they will each be missing one of their top offensive threats.
The Steelers will be missing Le’Veon Bell after the two sides failed to agree on a long-term deal, and the Browns will be missing Josh Gordon. Although, Gordon’s reasoning appears to be fairly cryptic as the Browns placed him on the non-football illness list.
The Ravens are already at camp because they play in the Hall of Fame game, and the reports on Lamar Jackson have been better than the team expected.
Lamar Jackson is “ahead of the curve”
Jackson was taken with the last pick in the first round by the Ravens, and one of the biggest knocks on their new quarterback was how ready he would be for the NFL. So far, he has been proving that statement wrong in camp.
“He’s done a fabulous job here of improving every day becoming a pocket passer,” Ravens’ offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told Garrett Downing of Ravens.com. “You can see on the practice field, it’s coming now. He’s getting better every day. There will be a time where he kind of takes a step back to take two steps forward and all that.”
This isn’t surprising given that these coaches has watched several seasons of Joe Flacco at practice. I mean you could throw Andy Dalton out there and I’m sure they’d be a little impressed.
Comments like this really strengthen the fact that the future for the Ravens may be way sooner then expected. Flacco is still one of the highest-paid players in the NFL right now, so sitting him for a rookie would be hard to sell to an owner.
However, if Flacco struggles early or gets injured, then Jackson may just take that job and keep it.
The Josh Gordon of it all
For some unclear reason, Josh Gordon will miss the start of training camp. The Browns placed Gordon on the Non-Football Illness List, which doesn’t mean a lot on its own. The story goes a little deeper as there doesn’t seem to be a timetable for him to return.
Gordon himself issued a statement:
July 23, 2018
It seems like Gordon is trying to correct whatever happened, but it is dangerous to speculate in situations like this. One positive piece of news that has come out is this is reportedly not connected to Gordon facing another suspension from the league, according to Tom Pelissero.
At this point, it is hard to not want this guy to just get his life straight.
Le’Veon Bell’s future with the team is murky after a long-term deal can’t be agreed on
Well well well, who would’ve thought that Bell and the Steelers wouldn’t be able to work out a long-term deal? Probably a majority of NFL fans. Bell will still get paid handsomely as he will play out his franchise tag contract of $14.5 million this season, but what will happen once the season is over?
Bell seems to think this could be the last year he spends in Pittsburgh.
to all my Steeler fans, my desire always has been to retire a Steeler...both sides worked extremely hard today to make that happen, but the NFL is a hard business at times...to the fans that had hope, I’m sorry we let youu down but trust me, 2018 will be my best season to date...— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 16, 2018
It isn’t the last chance the teams will have at getting a long-term deal done by any means, but it certainly hurts the Steelers chances of retaining one of their most important players. Given Bell’s negotiation history, he won’t agree to anything before he hits the open market. From there it will likely be anyone’s guess where Bell ends up.
Many will say it will be unlikely that the Steelers could be outbid by another team because Bell is a running back, but it is rare that a player of Bell’s skill set hits the open market. He has surpassed 1,200 rushing yards the last two seasons, and he has 160 total receptions over that same span. That is just insane. You can’t replicate that production.
It is pretty easy to imagine a team offering Bell a ridiculous deal to help bolster their offense. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh could easily be crippled in the next few seasons without Bell. Ben Roethlisberger is at the end of his career, and without him or Bell, the Steelers would have to rely heavily on what will likely be Mason Rudolph.
Luckily, they will still have Antonio Brown, but the Steelers have plenty to lose with Bell moving on, which it looks like he is prepared to do.