This past Tuesday evening the New York Jets indicated that they intended to release former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, a move the team made the next day. Shortly afterwards Bell signed a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, and he is now getting paid by both the Jets and Chiefs (more on that below).
Since the trade was consummated, ESPN Senior Writer Adam Schefter has learned that “one significant reason behind the New York Jets’ decision to release Le’Veon Bell this past week was the $8 million injury guarantee in the running back’s contract for 2021.”
In other words, if Bell, 28, continued to play for the Jets and suffered a long-term injury in the coming weeks, the team could be required to pay him $8 million next year, which the team considered untenable.
The injury guarantee also explains why the Jets were unable to make a trade for Bell, despite the fact that he had multiple suitors as a free agent—including the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins—plus as many as three other unsuccessful bidders. This despite the belief that the Jets were willing to accept as little as a late-round draft pick or “back end player.”
It appears no team wanted to “rent” Bell for the rest of the season (even if the Jets assumed the lion’s share of the financial responsibility) if they might be on the hook for $8 million next season.
How Much Will the Jets and Chiefs Be Paying Le’Veon Bell?
According to Schefter’s above-linked article, the Jets still owe Bell $6 million in base salary for the remainder of the 2020 season, but “there is an offset clause that will defray it by the amount of the salary on his new contract with the Chiefs” ($1 million in salary plus up to another $1 million in playing time and playoff incentives).
“The base salary will be prorated for the five games Bell was not on the Chiefs, meaning he will make around $690,000,” writes Schefter.
When Will Le’Veon Bell Suit Up for the Chiefs?
Bell is expected to make his first appearance in a Chiefs uniform on October 25 when Kansas City takes on the Broncos at Empower Field in Denver. On November 1 Bell will have a chance to go against the Jets when New York visits Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs (4-1) aren’t scheduled to face the Steelers (5-0) in the regular season but the two teams could meet in the postseason as both clubs are obviously well-positioned to make the playoffs.
Bell’s production has fallen dramatically since he last played for the Steelers in 2017. During his five years in Pittsburgh, Bell had 1,229 carries for 5,336 yards and 35 rushing touchdowns, plus another 312 catches for 2,660 yards and seven receiving touchdowns.
In 17 games with the Jets, Bell generated only 863 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards with four total touchdowns. In the end the Jets will have paid Bell approximately $27 million for that production, part of the four-year, $52.5 million contract he signed with the team in 2019.
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