Since Bell did not report to Pittsburgh ahead of the Nov. 13 deadline to maintain his playing eligibility for 2018, there are several options that could play out in the months ahead. The Steelers could franchise tag Bell for a third time in 2019, but he would be tagged at the quarterback salary number. The Steelers could also apply the transition tag on Bell, which would guarantee the team the right of first refusal to match any offer the player may receive from another club.
However, it's likely Bell will not don black and gold in 2019. If he does indeed hit the market, there's no question that Bell will be the most sought after player this offseason, and I expect quite a few teams to make a play for him.
That said, I've provided six clubs with the biggest question marks at running back heading into 2019 -- and solutions for all. Let's get to it.
New York Jets: The Jets' roster was plumb full of running backs in August with Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Thomas Rawls, Trenton Cannon, Charcandrick West and Elijah McGuire in the fold. Heading into Week 16, Gang Green is relying on McGuire, a second-year back, and Cannon, a rookie, as all others were waived or are on IR. Crowell has two more seasons on his contract, but my biggest concern is his lack of consistency. A steady run game is so important with a young quarterback on the field -- it can help simplify coverage for Sam Darnold, and the player(s) in the backfield can provide a checkdown option in the passing game. The Jets could do one of two things this offseason: Make a big play for Bell -- the Jets currently have the second-most cap space in the league for 2019, according to Over The Cap -- or draft their running back of the future in April to pair with Crowell in 2019.
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders MUST make a splash this offseason to shore up their ground game. With Oakland's top three rushers ticketed for free agency in 2019 -- Jalen Richard will be a restricted free agent; Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin will be unrestricted -- Jon Gruden will probably have a void or two to fill. The Raiders, who rank 26th in rushing, have to improve their run game to help out Derek Carr and give the defense rest. Knowing how much Gruden loves veteran players, and given that his team will have more than enough cap space next year, I could see the Raiders taking part in the race for Bell. One other potential solution for the Raiders is to sign Mark Ingram in free agency, should the Saints fail to re-up with him before his contract expires in March. Ingram's had some of his best production late in his career and could spearhead a consistent run game.
Kansas City Chiefs: A month ago, it seemed the Chiefs were about good as gold with Kareem Hunt and Patrick Mahomes still on the books under their rookie deals next season. But now that Hunt is no longer with the team, the Chiefs are in need of a dynamic, dual-threat running back. With Spencer Ware, Damien Williams and Charcandrick West set to become free agents, the Chiefs are in dire need of a player who can close out games and complement Mahomes. I'd love to see Le'Veon with Andy Reid, but Tevin Coleman, who's in the final year of his deal with the Falcons, could also do well in K.C.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: There's plenty of uncertainty for the Bucs, with Dirk Koetter's future seemingly up in the air. You could say the same thing about Jameis Winston, with the team still trying to determine if he's their long-term answer at QB. At running back, rookie Ronald Jones II has underwhelmed. Veteran Jacquizz Rodgers is due to become an unrestricted free agent, and leading rusher Peyton Barber will be a restricted free agent. That said, be prepared for what could be a huge overhaul in Tampa. The Bucs currently hold a top-10 pick in April's draft, so they could go after one of the top quarterbacks available with their first selection, or draft a running back early on. But the safer option at RB is to sign a proven rusher in free agency.
Philadelphia Eagles: Rookie Josh Adams has been a pleasant surprise in Philly, proving he can handle 20-plus touches per game. There's a good chance Adams will be part of the game plan next season, but Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi (who suffered a torn ACL in early October) are due to become free agents, and Sproles has said this will be his final NFL season. The Eagles have boasted a committee of running backs in recent years, so drafting an RB who could be a threat in the pass game would pair well with Adams. If the Eagles want to shift gears, they should go after a big-time free agent like Bell, Ingram or Latavius Murray to carry the load.
Indianapolis Colts:Marlon Mack has flashed at times in his two-year career, including in his 149-yard game last week against the Cowboys, and could very well be the guy in the backfield moving forward. Yet, his injury history is concerning for the long term. Just this season, he's dealt with injuries to his hamstring, ankle and foot, in addition to a concussion. Like the Miami Dolphins did this year pairing Frank Gore with Kenyan Drake, the Colts should sign a veteran RB to provide some stability in the backfield while helping Mack and other young players (like Nyheim Hines) mature. Ninth-year veteran and three-time Super Bowl champion LeGarrette Blount, who's due to become a free agent in 2019, would be a perfect fit here, considering he was with Frank Reich in Philadelphia last season.
Former NFL rushing leader and current NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his top 15 each week of the 2018 season. His rankings are based on this season's efforts alone. Here is MJD's list heading into Week 16.
Previous rank: No. 1
Despite Dallas getting shut out in Indy, Elliott had 25 touches for 128 scrimmage yards. On top of leading the league in carries, rush yards, touches and scrimmage yards, Zeke has set career-highs in every major receiving category.
**2018 stats:** 14 games | 286 att | 1,349 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 72 rec | 543 rec yds | 3 rec TDs </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 3
Since Week 9, McCaffrey is averaging 146.3 scrimmage yards per game, second-most in the NFL. And with his performance Monday night, the second-year back became the first player in franchise history to log at least 1,700 scrimmage yards in a single season, passing DeAngelo Williams (1,636 in 2008).
**2018 stats:** 14 games | 194 att | 979 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 94 rec | 768 rec yds | 6 rec TDs </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 4
It's scary what a banged-up Todd Gurley can do. Fighting through a knee injury on Sunday night, Gurley finished with 22 touches for 124 scrimmage yards and a pair of rushing TDs. Interestingly enough, the Rams lost their first game since 2017 in which Gurley has had at least 20 touches. They are now 17-1 in such games.
**2018 stats:** 14 games | 256 att | 1,251 rush yds | 4.9 ypc | 17 rush TDs | 59 rec | 580 rec yds | 4 rec TDs </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 2
Barkley was held under 100 scrimmage yards for the second time this season. The Titans did a great job containing him, and he'll have another challenge in Week 16 against a Colts defense that's peaking at the right time.
**2018 stats:** 14 games | 223 att | 1,155 rush yds | 5.2 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 82 rec | 654 rec yds | 4 rec TDs </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 5
Kamara had his best performance since Week 11 against the Panthers on Monday night, logging 21 touches for 103 scrimmage yards and a rushing TD.
**2018 stats:** 14 games | 187 att | 860 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 12 rush TDs | 77 rec | 627 rec yds | 4 rec TDs </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 8
Mixon had a helluva game against the Raiders with 129 rushing yards and two TDs. With that performance, the second-year pro passed Phillip Lindsay to lead the AFC in rushing yards and should hit 1,000 rushing yards for the season.
**2018 stats:** 12 games | 207 att | 995 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 40 rec | 284 rec yds | 1 rec TD </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 9
Chubb recorded his third career game with at least 100 rushing yards last week. The Browns rookie has been very effective since Week 7, averaging 18.5 carries and 85.9 rushing yards per game while recording six rushing TDs.
**2018 stats:** 14 games | 164 att | 860 rush yds | 5.2 ypc | 8 rush TDs | 16 rec | 150 rec yds | 2 rec TDs </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 11
In Cohen's 30th career game, he had just 52 scrimmage yards -- but did get his fifth receiving touchdown of the season. With two games left in the regular season, he leads the Bears in receptions, receiving yards, scrimmage yards and scrimmage TDs.
**2018 stats:** 14 games | 88 att | 408 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 68 rec | 710 rec yds | 5 rec TDs </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 15
Henry is playing like a man on a mission right now with 408 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns in the last two weeks. The numbers speak for themselves.
**2018 stats:** 14 games | 178 att | 882 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 11 rush TDs | 13 rec | 78 rec yds | 0 rec TDs </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 7
Despite averaging more touches the last two weeks, the rookie's production has plummeted. Since Week 14, Lindsay has averaged 18 touches, 27 rushing yards and 47.5 scrimmage yards per game.
**2018 stats:** 14 games | 182 att | 991 rush yds | 5.4 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 33 rec | 230 rec yds | 1 rec TD </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 14
Carson's climb comes after a big performance on the ground (22 attempts for 119 rushing yards and one TD). He should continue to do well this weekend against a Chiefs defense that ranks 26th against the run.
**2018 stats:** 12 games | 201 att | 913 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 6 rush TDs | 19 rec | 156 rec yds | 0 rec TDs </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: Not ranked
In Week 15's win over Miami, the Vikings rushed the ball on at least 50 percent of their offensive plays for just the second time this season (Minnesota had seven such games in 2017). Cook had career-highs in rushing yards (136) and rushing touchdowns (two) as a result.
**2018 stats:** 9 games | 106 att | 503 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 2 rush TDs | 33 rec | 249 rec yds | 2 rec TDs </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 12
Ingram has rushed for 63 yards or fewer in eight of his 10 games this season, but the Saints' success has been related to his touch count, not rushing yards. When Ingram has logged 10 or more touches in a game, the Saints are 9-0.
**2018 stats:** 10 games | 122 att | 582 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 18 rec | 147 rec yds | 1 rec TD </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 13
Peterson has struggled to continue his early-season production. In September and October, he averaged 105.4 scrimmage yards per game and 5.4 yards per touch. In November and December, Peterson has averaged 55 scrimmage yards per game and 3.7 yards per touch.
**2018 stats:** 14 games | 221 att | 923 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 19 rec | 200 rec yds | 1 rec TD </content:power-ranking>
Previous rank: No. 10
After just three carries, Miller left Saturday's contest with an ankle injury. Bill O'Brien said after the game that the injury didn't appear to be "major," but time will tell. Miller stays in the top 15 because he ranks eighth in rushing yards this season.
**2018 stats:** 13 games | 193 att | 917 rush yds | 4.8 ypc | 4 rush TDs | 23 rec | 163 rec yds | 1 rec TD </content:power-ranking>