Free agent Le'Veon Bell is everything the Bears covet on the field in a running back and everything they seem unlikely to condone off it at any position.
That won't suddenly change after the Pittsburgh Steelers confirmed Wednesday that they won't use any type of tag on Bell, who gets his wish of unrestricted free agency at age 26 after sitting out the 2018 season rather than playing under the franchise tag for a second straight year.
Simply put: The Bears seek an offseason upgrade at the RB position, to the point they left the door open for signing Kareem Hunt. Ultimately, the Browns did the Bears a favor in quickly signing Hunt before the Bears even began considering it in earnest.
It'll be another team doing the Bears a favor by signing Bell, but it's not a move we think they were considering in the first place. And let's be crystal clear on why: The Bears won't pursue Bell because he isn't a fit in their locker room, not because he won't fit within their salary-cap structure of offense.
It's been well-documented that the Bears have less than $7 million in cap room with the new league year approaching after never getting their ground game untracked last season. But hasn't it also been well-documented that they value players with high football character who are reliable and accountable? Was the Cody Parkey "Today" show appearance and subsequent Bears season-ending news conference that long ago already?
Even before Bell sat out the 2018 campaign, he'd become a distraction the season prior, when he averaged a career-low four yards per carry and reportedly missed a walk-through the day before Pittsburgh was eliminated by Jacksonville from the divisional round.
The Bears traded for 2018 offseason holdout Khalil Mack, you say? True, but did Mack suffer a torn ACL and receive two drug suspensions, causing him to miss a combined 15 games, prior to that decision? Nope, Mack started 65 of a possible 65 games to begin his career.
Did Mack receive a $12-million tender, after an offer essentially promising $42 million, in his final season on the field with the Raiders, like Bell? Mack made $18.7 million combined over his first four seasons, a span in which he went to three Pro Bowls and was named Defensive Player of the Year.
It's really beside the point, but Mack also happens to play the second-most important position in the game, not the least important.
We understand why Bears fans might dream about the possibilities of Bell in Matt Nagy's offense. The former Steeler is the game's most complete back, a combination of size, speed, strength and skill, making him an ideal fit in any scheme. We also get why some Bears fans will lament Chicago entertaining the possibility of adding Hunt but not pursuing Bell.
Still, one of Nagy's principle team-building philosophies is, "it's a we thing, not a me thing." And though it's not our place to say whether Bell was wrong to sit out last season and preserve himself for his likely one giant NFL contract, how can it be construed as anything but the antithesis of the selfless approach Nagy demands of his players?
Pace and Nagy combining forces to attack the RB position is exciting in and of itself, with Pace finding two Pro Bowlers on Day 3 over the past three seasons and Nagy helping turn Hunt into the NFL rushing champion as a rookie two years ago.
The Bears clearly are resourceful enough, and value the culture they're building in their locker room too much to be in the Bell market.