Ravens: What the Le’Veon Bell signing mean for the backfield

Ravens, Le'Veon Bell (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Ravens, Le'Veon Bell (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Eyeing additional running back help following the loss of both J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill for the season, the Baltimore Ravens signed veteran Le’Veon Bell to their practice squad on Tuesday.

In a move that few would have ever seen coming just a few short years ago, Bell will be joining the Ravens practice squad and is expected to provide some much-needed depth to the team’s backfield.

Bell spent five years playing with the Ravens’ bitter enemies, the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he established himself as one of the best running backs in football.

After sitting out of the 2018 season, the Ravens were reportedly one of the teams in on Bell in the 2019 offseason. He ultimately decided to sign with the NY Jets instead, and his career hasn’t been the same since.

But two-and-a-half years later, Bell is finally on his way to Baltimore. Albeit under very different circumstances.

Le’Veon Bell could play an important role with the Ravens

Bell was brought in on Monday alongside Devonta Freeman and Elijah Holyfield with the Ravens looking to add another running back following the losses of Dobbins and Hill.

But where exactly does Bell fit in? What role might he play in 2021? And when could we expect to see him on the active roster?

Bell isn’t exactly the direct replacement for Hill. That player might be Trenton Cannon who the Ravens are reportedly close to signing as well.

Cannon is a special teams ace with excellent speed, albeit not someone you want carrying the football too much. He’s virtually a Justice Hill clone.

If the Ravens do sign Cannon, it’s likely he’ll take Hill’s place on the active roster. Why Cannon over Bell? Really, the only answer is special teams.

Bell isn’t going to be someone who’s asked to play on special teams. He’s played just 11 special-teams snaps in his entire eight-year NFL career. It’s just never something he’s done.

Instead, Bell could be elevated on game days or eventually signed to the active roster to serve as the team’s de facto third-down back.

Bell may be a shell of his former self, but he’s still a more-than-capable receiving back who doubles as an excellent pass protector. And that’s exactly what the Ravens were looking for.

The addition of Bell doesn’t necessarily affect the share of touches that Gus Edwards and Ty’Son Williams will receive. He merely supplements the backfield by giving the team a veteran who can catch out of the backfield.

The days of Le’Veon Bell carrying the ball 15+ times a game are over. He’s little more than a role player at this point.

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But that’s perfectly fine. Both player and team understand his assignment.