Ex-Jets’ Free-Agent Bust Agrees to Practice Squad Deal

Le'Veon Bell

Getty Former New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell carries the ball on October 11, 2020.

The mighty have fallen.

Back in 2019, former New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan was looking to make a splash in free agency in an attempt to save his job. He had already signed linebacker C.J. Mosley to a mega-contract and linebacker Anthony Barr had just snubbed Gang Green after agreeing to a deal in principle.

Instead, Maccagnan ended up dishing out a four-year, $52.5 million contract to a running back who had just taken a year off from football. Just like that, the infamous Le’Veon Bell became a Jet. What many fans didn’t realize at the time was that he wouldn’t be with the franchise for very long.

On October 14, 2020, the Jets released Bell under a new GM, Joe Douglas, after failing to find a trade partner.

After a short stint with the Kansas City Chiefs and a few social media feuds, one revolving around Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, Bell found himself back on the free agency market in 2021. This time, however, there weren’t many takers.

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Ravens Sign Le’Veon Bell

After season-ending injuries to running backs J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill, the Baltimore Ravens had to make a move to add a rusher, and so they did.

NFL insider Adam Schefter reported that the Ravens were signing Bell to their practice squad on September 7. The expectation is that the veteran will join the active roster once he’s deemed football-ready.

Bell already got paid because Maccagnan was dumb enough to write the check, but a practice squad deal is still a stark change from his former price tag.

This is the reality of the NFL, something Bell realized when he held out with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Running backs don’t last forever and GMs are always looking to replace veterans with ‘fresher legs.’

At the same time, the confident RB definitely didn’t figure his career would fall off a cliff so quickly when he signed with New York about two and a half years ago.

Ironically, the Ravens also signed former Jets RB Trenton Cannon to the active roster, according to Ian Rapoport. If you had told Jets fans that Cannon was awarded a roster spot over Bell years ago, they’d have said you were crazy.

Even so, Baltimore’s injury situation provides one more opportunity for Bell. If he falters in this run-first system, his career may become a thing of the past.

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Douglas Would Have Never Signed Bell

We always talk about how the Green & White culture is different under Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh. One easy example of this is that the current GM would have never even considered signing Bell.

Adam Gase was a terrible coach but he was right about one thing, you don’t spend a large chunk of your cap space on an over-the-hill running back. Jets ownership eventually agreed, firing Maccagnan after his 2019 offseason and hiring Douglas before the 2019 training camp.

It was an unprecedented move that clearly should have been done before the free agency period. At the end of the day though, it was still the right move — even if it was a little late.

Based on a recent inquiry on our Heavy On Jets Facebook page, most Jets fans seem happy with Douglas so far and we agree.

The GM has been a breath of fresh air from the moment he walked in the door. He explained to fans that they must be patient as he rebuilds this organization through the draft.

Douglas drafted nine players in 2020 and 10 in 2021, and that’s not even including the plethora of undrafted prospects and waiver claims that the GM has hawked.

Out of those 19 rookies, only one is no longer with the franchise, quarterback James Morgan. To me, the signal-caller always seemed like a Gase recommendation, being that his ability translated directly into the former HC’s offensive scheme.

Whether it was Douglas or Gase that selected Morgan, 18 out of 19 is a pretty good track record so far. To be fair, edge rusher Jabari Zuniga is currently with the practice squad due to injuries and guard Cameron Clark is on the long-term injured reserve.

Every other Douglas draft pick is on the active roster right now, outside of safety Ashtyn Davis who is expected to rejoin the franchise in Week 2 or 3. Several may even start this weekend versus Carolina.

The Jets’ new GM has not been as strong in free agency as the draft, but he’s also expressed a desire to develop the prospects that they have, rather than spend big like Maccagnan. Let the Bell disaster act as a reminder that building through free agency rarely works in the NFL.

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