The signing comes a day after news broke that RB Justice Hill suffered an Achilles tear, the second season-ending injury to a Ravens running back after J.K. Dobbins tore his ACL on August 28.
Baltimore hosted Bell for a workout on Monday, September 6, along with Devonta Freeman and Elijah Holyfield, with Trenton Cannon working out for the team earlier today.
Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic confirmed that the two-time All-Pro will first be added to the Ravens’ practice squad, putting them over the limit of six veterans, so the front office still has a bit of juggling to do ahead of Monday’s Week 1 contest against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Rival Turned Teammate
Bell arrives in Baltimore as the NFL’s leading active rusher against the Ravens, with a bulk of his 807 career rushing yards against Baltimore coming as a member of the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
Some of Bell’s best single-game performances have come lined up against Baltimore’s defense, including a two-game stretch in 2017 where he racked up 311 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns in a season sweep of the Ravens.
After Bell’s falling-out with the Steelers in 2018, he was repeatedly linked with the Ravens, who were in the midst of revamping their offense around quarterback Lamar Jackson. Experts argued that Baltimore’s new, run-focused offense would be a perfect landing spot for Bell, who demonstrated he was more than capable of being a bell-cow running back in Pittsburgh.
Bell ultimately signed with the New York Jets for four years and $52.5 million, but a poor offensive line limited his production. He averaged a career-low 3.2 yards per carry in 2019, but still put up respectable receiving numbers, catching 66 passes for 461 yards.
He appeared to feud with Jets head coach Adam Gase the next season, liking tweets that criticized Gates’ deployment of Bell and called for Bell to be traded. Unable to trade Bell, the Jets released him, and he was quickly signed by the Kansas City Chiefs. He played intermittently for the Chiefs, but left the team after the season on bad terms, commenting on an Instagram post, “I’ll never play for Andy Reid again…I’d retire first.”
What Does Bell Bring to Baltimore?
Regardless of his continued clashes with coaches and team officials, Bell brings a unique skillset to the Ravens at a time when the team is in dire need of another reliable running back.
Former NFL quarterback and CBS analyst Phil Simms dubbed Bell ‘The Great Hesitator’ for his tendency to stutter-step towards the line of scrimmage after receiving a handoff. He is among the most patient running backs in the NFL, allowing his offensive line to create holes and creases to exploit rather than charging full-speed into the trenches. This signature style allow Bell to exploit overcommitted defenders with cutbacks, turning seemingly normal plays into explosive gains.
Bell’s hesitation and patience should fit right in behind Baltimore’s massive offensive line that has spent the last three seasons opening up holes for Jackson and running back Gus Edwards. Bell’s uncanny vision combined with offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s play design will help the veteran get the most out of his carriers.
Bell is also one of the best pass-catchers out of the backfield in recent years, with sharp cuts and reliable hands that made him a consistent outlet for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That versatility will be especially valuable in Baltimore, as the Ravens have worked this offseason to improve their air attack. He can also line up out wide or in the slot, giving the Ravens plenty of ways to deploy Bell.
The Ravens have yet to announce if Bell will be on the 53-man roster, or if he will even be available against the Raiders on Monday. With only two healthy RBs on their roster, they’ll have to move quickly to get Bell up to speed on the offensive playbook before he can make his debut in purple and black.