With Bell released by the Jets, here are some of the spots he could end up
The Le’Veon Bell experiment in New York has simply been a square peg, round hole situation from Day 1. Upon signing his four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets in March of 2019, there was immediate discontent between the front office and head coach Adam Gase, who reportedly was not in love with the idea of giving a running back that big of a deal.
From there, Gase and Bell never seemed to see eye-to-eye, getting into a number of public disagreements including one this week where Bell liked a number of tweets saying he should have seen more targets in New York’s Week 5 loss to the Cardinals. Naturally, Gase was less-than-pleased with Bell’s decision to relay his feeling on social media rather than discuss game strategy with the coach face-to-face. Again, that’s simply just a taste of how much of a poor match these two sides have been from the jump.
What was intriguing about this latest social media Cold War between Bell and Gase was the back liking a tweet suggesting New York should trade him. Well, it appears like he may get his wish as Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that the Jets are trying to trade Bell prior to the Oct. 29 trade deadline. The trade rumors didn’t last long as New York released Bell hours after the reports of the Jets seeking a trade came out.
Now that Bell has been released, let’s take a look at some of the possible destinations for the former All-Pro back.
The great Matthew McConaughey once said, “Sometimes you’ve got to go back to actually move forward.”
With Le’Veon Bell likely to become a free agent, a return to the Steelers shouldn’t be out of the question. When the Jets put Bell on the block last year around the trade deadline, Pittsburgh was reportedly one of the teams kicking the tires on acquiring him, possibly setting up a reunion in the Steel City. While that ultimately didn’t happen, it wouldn’t come as a shock to see the Steelers re-enter the Bell sweepstakes now that he’s on the market once again.
Of course, Bell’s exit from the Steelers was certainly a messy one, but there’s no denying the success he had while on the field in Pittsburgh. In his five years with the Steelers, he averaged 1,337 yards from scrimmage and nearly seven total touchdowns a season. Arguably his best season came in 2014 when he totaled 2,215 scrimmage yards and 11 total touchdowns. That said, Bell also logged back-to-back thousand-plus yard rushing seasons for Pittsburgh before sitting out al of 2018 due to a contract dispute.
Again, he has a history of success in their system and, if Pittsburgh was interested last year, they could be interested yet again.
Chicago has been one of the bigger surprises of the 2020 season, starting off with a 4-1 record and in the thick of playoff contention to this point. If GM Ryan Pace wants to go all-in with this team that is now spearheaded by quarterback Nick Foles, adding a weapon like Bell may not be a bad boost for an offense that did lose Tarik Cohen for the year due to a torn ACL. Cohen saw 104 targets in the passing game in 2019 and those are theoretically still up for grabs. Bell has proven to be a more than capable pass-catching back, totaling 381 receptions over the course of his career.
The Bears are also ranked 25th in the NFL in total rushing yards and dead last in the league in rushing scores. Adding Bell to this backfield to pair with David Montgomery would certainly bring those numbers to a more respectable level.
Do not sleep on the Arizona Cardinals in these Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes. Why? James Saxon. The currents Cards running backs coach held the same position with the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout Bell’s tenure with the organization. Saxon helped coach up Bell, a second-round pick out of Michigan State, into the first-team All-Pro back we know today. Given that history, you cannot ignore Arizona as a potential landing spot for Bell.
While the Cardinals are technically a top-five rushing team in the league, that’s largely thanks to quarterback Kyle Murray totaling 296 yards and five touchdowns on the ground through five games. Kenyan Drake, who the team acquired around the deadline last year, has been subpar in his second season with the club, rushing for 3.7 yards per carry. Drake is currently playing on just a one-year transition tag, so the Cardinals are not committed to him long-term, which opens the door to bring in the likes of Bell.
Los Angeles Chargers
With Austin Ekeler currently on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury in Week 4 which is likely to sideline him for a month-plus, L.A. begins looking like another appealing destination for Bell. While Justin Jackson put in a solid effort (71 yards rushing) against the Saints in Monday’s loss, the Chargers as a team were pretty inefficient on the ground, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Rookie Joshua Kelley was looked at as the key replacement for Ekeler, but only managed 26 rushing yards on 11 carries.
If they were to sign Bell, not only would that give rookie phenom Justin Herbert a star running back in the here and now, but it’d form one heck of a one-two punch when Ekeler returns to full strength. Now that the Chargers have found their franchise quarterback, it’s imperative that they capitalize on his rookie contract and surround him with elite talent to contend. Bringing in Bell to an offense that already has Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, and Ekeler would do wonders for his development.
The Bills could certainly use a boost in the backfield. They are currently tied for the third-worst yards per carry rate (3.7) in the NFL. They do have Devin Singletary and rookie Zack Moss as two key pieces in the running game, but adding Bell could bring an entirely new dimension to their rushing attack and lessen the pressure off Josh Allen to make plays with his feet along with his arm.
With Allen taking a significant leap as a passer this season, the Bills are primed for a deep playoff run. If they want to be buyers at the deadline and are looking to bolster one of the few areas of weakness along their offense, signing Bell could be a smart way to go.
— CBS SPORTS