On Tuesday afternoon a report emerged that the New York Jets were trying to trade disgruntled former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. That’s already old news. On Tuesday evening the Jets issued a statement indicating that the team has decided to release Bell after “exploring potential trade options over the last couple of days.”
However, if you believe ESPN Senior Insider Adam Schefter, the Jets have been trying to rid themselves of Bell as far back as last year’s trade deadline, which is remarkable considering that just eight months prior they signed him to a four-year, $52.5 million contract.
According to Rich Cimini, the Jets contacted every team in the NFL about trading for Bell and teams weren’t so much afraid of the $6 million in salary owed to Bell this year, but were very nervous about his $8 million injury guarantee for 2021.
Cimini also notes that the Jets were willing to pay some of what remains of Bell’s 2020 salary, but that wasn’t enough to get any team to bite.
New York’s Buyer’s Remorse
It’s saying something, though, that the Jets were so eager to have Bell off the team that they were willing to eat a total of $19 million in dead money–$15 million in 2020 and $4 million in 2021.
What did the Jets receive for the $27 million spent on Bell? In 17 games he rushed the ball 264 times for 863 yards with three touchdowns, plus 69 catches for 500 yards and one touchdown. That’s a total of four touchdowns and nary a single 100-yard game.
It’s remarkable how far Bell—and former Steelers teammate Antonio Brown—have fallen since leaving the Steelers. As noted by ESPN’s Brooke Pryor:
Potential Destinations for Le’Veon Bell
But soon potentially interested suitors will be able to negotiate their own contract with Bell and his agent. The Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans all reportedly expressed interest in trading for Bell last year.
Kansas City doesn’t need Bell, but he would make sense as a receiver out of the backfield in Andy Reid’s offense and might thrive with all the other weapons around him, much like he did in Pittsburgh. Likewise, the 4-0 Packers don’t exactly need Bell, but Aaron Rodgers would likely be a good fit in terms of throwing to him out of the backfield, which has always been Bell’s forte.
It’s hard to see how the 0-4 Texans would still be a match; for one, it’s difficult to see Bell moving on to another winless team.
A dark horse candidate is the Arizona Cardinals, who now employ former Steelers running backs coach James Saxon, who was in Pittsburgh during Bell’s entire tenure there and knows something about how to utilize Bell. Plus, the club’s leading running back, Kenyan Drake, is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry this season and has only two touchdowns.
A Reunion with the Steelers?
There’s even a slim chance that Bell could return to Pittsburgh, though it’s hard to see how the cap-strapped Steelers would want to spend any money on a running back (unless injuries make adding a back an absolute necessity). Right now the Steelers are undefeated with James Conner, Benny Snell Jr. and rookie Anthony McFarland Jr. handling the load at a very reasonable total cost.
We’re likely to hear how the Steelers “kicked the tires” on Bell, but it’s doubtful Kevin Colbert & Co. make a move to add him.
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