The Chiefs have won the Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes. The two-time All-Pro running back agreed to a deal to sign with the defending Super Bowl champions, Tom Pelissero and Jim Trotter of NFL.com report (on Twitter).
Bell considered the Bills and Dolphins as well, and the Dolphins were believed to have offered a two-year deal. But the Chiefs, who were on the verge of an agreement with Bell on Wednesday night, have landed the recently released back.
It is a one-year contract with incentives, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter and SI.com’s Albert Breer (Twitter links). Bell indeed was hoping to catch on with a contender, per Schefter. After spending parts of two seasons with a struggling Jets team, the former Steelers standout will be back in a playoff race.
This will give Clyde Edwards-Helaire an experienced tandem partner, with this Bell agreement putting him on track to take over for Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson as the rookie’s top backup. But while 2019 late-summer free agency addition LeSean McCoy could not stick as Damien Williams‘ backup, Bell was prioritizing fit in an offense. It seems likely he will see a significant role alongside Edwards-Helaire.
While McCoy had strong track records on two teams, Bell bombed with his second franchise. Adam Gase did not want the running back at the $13.25MM-per-year price, and the Jets fit indeed turned out to be poor. The former Steelers dynamo lumbered for a career-low 3.2 yards per carry in 2019. This season, he suffered a hamstring injury in Week 1 and missed three games. Upon return in Week 5, Bell did average 4.62 yards per tote. That is a small sample size, but the showing may have reignited the Jets’ efforts to deal Bell. No takers emerged, and the team cut its losses with a Tuesday release. Bell will land with a much better offense.
Kansas City’s offense now houses five former first-team All-Pros — Bell, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Mitchell Schwartz and Tyreek Hill. (This number would have been six had ex-Bell teammate Kelechi Osemele not suffered severe knee injuries Sunday.) While this was the case last year with McCoy as well, the 28-year-old Bell brings lower mileage to Kansas City. Aided by his skipping the 2018 season in a franchise tag dispute with the Steelers, Bell has 1,874 career touches. McCoy had over 2,800 when he signed with Kansas City.
Bell will need to prove he still has upper-echelon ability; he did not record a 20-yard run as a Jet. His most recent 100-yard rushing game came in 2017; the former second-round pick never cleared 90 rushing yards in a Jets game. As a Steeler, Bell posted 1,800-plus scrimmage yards three times en route to the 2014 and ’17 All-Pro teams. He added three 75-catch seasons in that span, so seeing how Andy Reid deploys him will be an interesting October NFL storyline.
The earliest Bell could make his Chiefs debut would be Week 7, with COVID-19 protocols requiring free agents to pass nearly a week’s worth of coronavirus tests in order to begin practicing with their new teams. The Chiefs face the Jets in Week 8.