INDIANAPOLIS - There are two prominent Pittsburgh Steelers who are both very available, and who will dominate the conversation in the NFL this offseason. Two years ago, the dynamic duo combined for 3,479 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The Jets, who desperately need impact offensive players, could really use both RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown.
Realistically, though, they only have a shot at one.
So go ahead and dream of adding Bell and Brown to the Jets, what that could do for Sam Darnold, and how that would make the Jets an instant playoff contender. But only Bell is actually in reach, since all it will take is a truckload of money to get him. The price for Brown and all the headaches that come with him is likely too high for a Jets team that needs to keep the few draft picks it has left.
The Steelers are looking to trade Brown, but they aren't looking to give him away. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said on Wednesday that he considers Brown to be "one of the best players in the National Football League," and he added that "if you decide to take a player like that off your team, you best have the compensation that will justify removing that player - and that would be significant compensation either in the form of a draft pick or picks, or a player and picks so you can try to balance off the great loss that will happen if you lose a player like that."
Translation: He wants a kings' ransom, and it surely will have to include a first-round pick.
The Jets have discussed Brown, according to a team source, but as of Wednesday, they had not officially reached out to the Steelers. Colbert said more than three teams have already spoken to him about Brown. Even Jets GM Mike Maccagnan indicated he'll likely speak to Colbert about Brown at some point, because "I pretty much call everybody at some point in time about every name that flies out there just to see."
But the Jets have no interest in swapping the third overall pick in the draft for Brown, according to a source, and they don't have a second-round pick because they sent it to the Colts in the Darnold deal last year. That leaves them with only a third-rounder to offer this year along with whatever future picks they could package together, or players if they had any that interested with the Steelers.
It seems unlikely they could put together an enticing package, especially since they have tons of holes to fill and need every pick and every talented player they already have to do so. Also, new coach Adam Gase glowed about his current receiving corps on Wednesday. He said Quincy Enunwa is "the type of guy you just want to get the ball in his hands," and a player who "can be a factor on a lot of different levels." He also raved about Robby Anderson's "unique" speed, and the "smooth" way he tracks the ball as he runs down the field.
He didn't sound at all like a coach desperate to find a No. 1 receiver.
What about a No. 1 running back, though? Neither Isaiah Crowell nor Elijah McGuire have shown the ability to do anything like the 28-year-old Bell can do. Asked about adding an elite running back, Gase sensed the question was about Bell and dodged it, saying "We have the option to do what we need to do with the players that we have."
That's true, but they can do it better with Bell - and the Jets know it, which is why they are expected to dive heavily into his market when they can first talk (officially) to his agent on March 11. The only question seems to be how high they will go with their offer, and whether it approaches the record-breaking contract Bell wants and might just get.
Not everyone agrees that running backs are worth big-money deals. Asked about his philosophy on that, Maccagnan left his answer vague.
"Hypothetically speaking? As if there was one in the market? Potentially?" Maccagnan said. "We obviously look at history and how positions are paid. But would say simply this: Not necessarily to circumvent the question, but you don't necessarily look at it (by) position. You get away from the (position) part and you think 'Hey, what do you think the value of that player is?'"
The value of Bell could be more than $70 million over five years with as much as $40 million guaranteed. That's a lot, but with the Jets having in the neighborhood of $100 million in salary cap room, it's certainly something they could afford. Dealing picks or players for Brown, on the other hand, would really be unaffordable to a rebuilding franchise.
So even though Brown and Bell would be a dream tandem for the Jets, they really only have a shot at one.