The Jets have reached agreement on a deal to sign Le’Veon Bell, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The former Steelers running back will receive a four-year, $52.5MM contract with $35MM guaranteed. The deal will carry a maximum value of nearly to $61MM, including incentives.
Bell was said to be deciding between about six teams on Tuesday, though the list of clubs might not have been completely accurate. The Ravens, for example, did not make an offer to Bell, according to Schefter. On top of that, the Ravens never even had conversations with Bell’s agent about signing him, Mike Florio of PFT (on Twitter) hears.
Still, plenty of other teams were hot on his tail. The 49ers, for example, made a strong offer to the running back and “were engaged in a wild tug-of-war with the Jets” in the final hours before Bell agreed to join Gang Green, Schefter hears.
For the Jets, the Bell signing redeems a difficult week of misfires. The Jets thought they had a deal with Vikings free agent linebacker Anthony Barr only for Barr to bail at the last minute and re-sign with the Vikings. The Jets were also heavily in pursuit of center Matt Paradis, but he stunned the league on Tuesday night by joining up with the Panthers instead.
Bell gained nearly 2,000 total yards in 2017, a year in which he was franchise tagged by the Steelers. When tagged again, Bell opted to sit out the entire 2018 season, resulting in the forfeiture of a $14.5MM salary, or $855K per game. Bell managed to make it to unrestricted free agency without the risk of injury in his final Steelers season, but it’s debatable as to whether the $14.5MM sacrifice was worthwhile.
In 2017, his last season on the field, Bell led the league with a career-high 321 rushing attempts. In the past, Bell has spoken of reducing his workload, so the Jets may have to dial down his usage. In any event, Bell profiles as the Jets’ most talented running back since Curtis Martin. The franchise has enjoyed the post-prime star power of LaDainian Tomlinson and others in the past, but Bell is a generational talent in his prime who can keep defenses honest and open up the passing game for youngster Sam Darnold.
With Darnold in the fold, the Jets are deploying the strategy used by many NFL teams with quarterbacks on rookie deals: surround the young signal-caller with talent while he’s on a cheap deal. Bell will give the Jets a boost in the running game, and he’ll be working behind an offensive line that includes new addition Kelechi Osemele, whom New York acquired from Oakland. New slot receiver Jamison Crowder, too, should give Darnold another weapon in the latter’s second pro campaign.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.