Le'Veon Bell

Ravens Activate Bateman, Phillips From IR

Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman will make his NFL debut this weekend in a heavily anticipated matchup between two exciting young QBs in Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and the Chargers’ Justin Herbert. Head coach John Harbaugh apprised reporters of the news today (Twitter link via Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic).

Baltimore activated both Bateman and guard Tyre Phillips from IR Saturday. Phillips has been out since Week 1 due to a knee injury that required cart transportation. He began the season as the Ravens’ starting left guard. This move comes shortly after the Ravens placed rookie fill-in Ben Cleveland, who has split time at left guard with Ben Powers, on IR. Baltimore promoted Le’Veon Bell and tackle Andre Smith from its practice squad as well.

The Ravens have managed a 4-1 record despite a rash of injured stars and key contributors, including their top two RBs — J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards — CB Marcus Peters, LT Ronnie Stanley, and many others besides. Bateman, the 27th-overall pick of this year’s draft, joined the club’s MASH unit after suffering a significant groin pull in training camp that ultimately required surgery. Baltimore put its rookie wideout on IR and designated him for return at the end of September.

The Ravens’ ground game, which was the club’s calling card over the past several years, has been subdued in 2021 thanks in large part to the aforementioned injuries to Dobbins and Edwards (and thanks to opposing defenses gearing up to stop the run). But Jackson has elevated his passing abilities and his receivers have played well, allowing Baltimore to sustain a productive aerial attack, which Bateman should further bolster.

Unfortunately (but not unsurprisingly), Bateman’s debut coincides with the loss of fellow wideout Sammy Watkins. Watkins signed a one-year contract with the Ravens this spring, and he had developed a strong rapport with Jackson, catching 18 passes for 292 yards (good for a 16.2 YPR mark, which would be the second-highest figure of his career). Watkins suffered a hamstring injury in Monday’s dramatic win over the Colts, and he has been ruled out for the Chargers game this week (Twitter link via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com). There is no definitive timetable for Watkins at this point, but it does not sound like the team will put him on IR just yet.

Meanwhile, Baltimore continues to be without TE Nick Boyle. Boyle is an effective ancillary receiving target in his own right, but his primary contribution has been as a blocker. He is regarded as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, and his return could help the running game get back on track. As with Watkins, there is no definitive return date for Boyle, but Harbaugh said the Delaware product will come off of IR soon (Twitter link via Hensley).

Boyle has been recovering from a severe knee injury he suffered last November, which ended his 2020 season prematurely.

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Ravens Receiving Trade Interest On RBs

The Ravens are receiving trade inquiries on their running backs, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter. Their revamped backfield currently features second-year pro Ty’Son Williams plus veterans Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, and Le’Veon Bell

[RELATED: Ravens Elevate RB Le’Veon Bell]

The Ravens’ position group was decimated by injuries to J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill just before the start of the season. Now, their replacements are drawing interest from teams in advance of the November 2 trade deadline.

Through four games, the Ravens have averaged 164.5 rushing yards per contest, good for fourth in the league. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is responsible for much of their ground game success, but Williams has also impressed with 164 rushing yards and a touchdown off of 27 carries — good for a 6.1 ypc average. Freeman, in a much smaller sample of six attempts, has averaged 6.8 yards per tote. Meanwhile, Murray has three rushing TDs to lead the team.

They’ll all look to advance the Ravens to 4-1 tonight when they face the Colts in Baltimore.

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Ravens Elevate RB Le’Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell‘s Ravens debut could be coming soon. The team elevated the former All-Pro running back to its active roster Saturday, doing so while placing Derek Wolfe on IR.

Amid a brutal run of injuries at running back, the Ravens worked out Bell shortly before Week 1 and signed him to their practice squad. Baltimore promoted Devonta Freeman ahead of the ex-Steelers star but now will have Bell on its active roster as well in Week 4.

Bell joins Freeman, Ty’Son Williams and Latavius Murray on Baltimore’s 55-man Week 4 roster. Teams can dress up to 48 players each week. The Ravens have gone with a committee approach at running back, using Williams and Murray mostly. Freeman has seen sporadic work behind the team’s top duo.

To label Bell’s past three-plus years as underwhelming would be quite the understatement. Following Bell’s 2018 full-season holdout, the lucrative Jets deal he inked failed spectacularly. The Jets dropped Bell midway through last season. While the Chiefs picked him up, Bell saw scant action in the playoffs and was a healthy scratch for both the AFC championship game and Super Bowl LV. The Ravens extended the two-time All-Pro another chance, however, and Bell will likely soon begin his age-29 season.

Wolfe has not played this season and will miss his Denver homecoming game. The eight-year Broncos starter signed with the Ravens in 2020 and played in 14 games, but back and hip injuries have sidelined him since August. The veteran defensive lineman will be out through at least Week 6.

Baltimore also elevated tackle Andre Smith and cornerback Kevon Seymour from its practice squad, with Smith being named a COVID-19 roster replacement for Jaylon Ferguson, who will miss a second straight game after having tested positive. The Ravens did not activate receivers Rashod Bateman or Miles Boykin.

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Ravens To Sign RB Le’Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell will move to the other side of one of the NFL’s top rivalries. After years with the Steelers, the former All-Pro running back agreed to terms with the Ravens on Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Bell, whose Jets and Chiefs stints were far less successful, received a workout opportunity with the Ravens on Monday. Baltimore has lost J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill for the season. The Ravens, who auditioned Bell and Devonta Freeman, will bring in the former to help fill the void.

Interestingly, this is a practice squad agreement. While Bell figures to be bumped up to Baltimore’s active roster, he will join the team’s 16-man taxi squad for the time being.

This will be Bell’s age-29 season, and he is not heading to Maryland with much momentum. The accomplished back’s four-year, $52.5MM deal quickly created a sunk cost for the Jets, who dropped him midway through the 2020 season. The Chiefs added Bell soon after and used him sporadically during the regular season’s stretch run. Kansas City then made Bell a healthy scratch in two of its three playoff games, including Super Bowl LV.

In Pittsburgh, Bell was one of the NFL’s best backs. He stampeded to first-team All-Pro acclaim in 2014 and ’17, helping the Steelers assemble one of the NFL’s best offenses for a lengthy stretch in the 2010s. Although Bell’s 2018 holdout decision and subsequent Pittsburgh exit essentially serves as a line of demarcation for his career, the Ravens present an interesting redemption opportunity.

Baltimore boasts the NFL’s top rushing attack and does not have any proven backs behind new starter Gus Edwards. Second-year UDFA Ty’Son Williams has impressed this offseason, but the losses of Dobbins and Hill created an immediate need for the team.

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This Date In Transactions History: Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell Signs Franchise Tender

On this date in 2017, Le’Veon Bell‘s first holdout officially came to an end. On September 4, 2017, the star running back inked his franchise tender with the Steelers.

By the start of the 2017 regular season, Bell had already established himself as one of the best running backs in football. The former second-round pick had exceeded 1,000 yards from scrimmage in three of his first four seasons, and he collected 31 touchdowns through his first four campaigns. Thanks to that production, Bell wanted to be paid like one of the top running backs in the NFL, and the Steelers were certainly willing to oblige…on their terms. The team seemed to be operating on a year-by-year approach before committing big money to Bell. It was hard to blame the organization; the running back missed three games as a rookie, 10 games in 2015, and another four games in 2016. The team clearly wanted Bell to prove he could stay healthy.

Ultimately, Bell stayed home during training camp and the 2017 preseason after the two sides couldn’t reach agreement on an extension before the deadline. Bell’s decision to hold out was mostly a sign of defiance, but it didn’t sound like there was any tension between the two sides. It was reported throughout the offseason that Bell would show up for Week 1, and he did just that. That led to the September 4th transaction, when Bell inked his franchise tender. The move locked him into a one-year, $12.12MM deal.

Bell had another standout season in 2017, and he managed to appear in 15 games. He earned first-team All-Pro honors after finishing the season with 1,946 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns on a league-leading 406 carries. He also had a pair of touchdowns in the Steelers’ playoff loss to the Jaguars.

Instead of inking Bell to a long-term deal, the Steelers decided to play hard ball again in 2018. The team utilized the franchise tag for a second-straight season, meaning Bell would earn $14.5MM that year. Predictably, the running back held out again, but he’d never return to the team. He didn’t report to the team prior to the deadline to ink his franchise tender, making him ineligible to play in 2018. The Steelers didn’t use the franchise tag in 2019, which finally made Bell a free agent.

The running back ended up getting a four-year, $52.5MM deal from the Jets, and he was somewhat productive during his first season in New York, finishing with 1,250 yards from scrimmage. He dealt with injuries in 2020 and hinted that he wanted a trade, leading to his outright release. He caught on with the Chiefs for the stretch run, and he finished with 353 yards from scrimmage in his nine games with Kansas City. He only saw time in one of the Chiefs’ three playoff games. The 29-year-old remains unsigned for the 2021 season.

It’s hard not to wonder how Bell’s career would currently look had he not sat out that 2018 campaign. His 2017 holdout was a precursor of things to come, and despite the fact that he signed his tag (on this date in 2017), the whole event certainly played a role in his future negotiations with the Steelers.

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This Date In Transactions History: Steelers Extend Antonio Brown, Franchise Le’Veon Bell

On February 27, 2017, things were looking pretty good in Pittsburgh. Following a 2016 campaign that saw the Steelers make it to the AFC Championship, the organization committed to two of their offensive stars on the same day. On this date four years ago, the organization extended wideout Antonio Brown and franchised running back Le’Veon Bell. No one knew at the time that both these players would soon be playing for different teams.

By 2017, the two duo had already proven themselves among the top players at their respective positions. Brown was coming off four-straight campaigns that saw him surpass 1,000 yards receiving, and he hauled in 43 touchdowns during that four-year span. There had yet to be much drama for the perennial Pro Bowler; while a 2016 locker-room video led to discipline, Brown had otherwise been a good soldier. As a result, the Steelers felt more than comfortable making him the (then) highest-paid pass-catcher of all-time. The wideout ended up inking a lucrative four-year extension worth $68MM ($19MM guaranteed) that would last through the 2021 season.

“Antonio is a good guy, a good person,” team president Art Rooney II said at the time. “I enjoy our personal relationship. His teammates like to have him on the team. He is a hard worker.

“AB is a big contributor to our success, has been for several years now, and I think he’s capable of continuing to be that kind of player. I think he’s someone who wants to be a great player and works hard to be that. Hopefully, he’ll continue to evolve as a player and as a person.”

Despite only appearing in 12 games during the 2016 season, Bell still put up some gaudy numbers. He finished the campaign with 1,884 all-purpose yards and nine total touchdowns, earning him a Pro Bowl spot. While the two sides were eager to figure out a long-term deal, the Steelers ultimately placed the franchise tag on their star running back, locking him into a $12MM salary for 2017. After becoming the fastest player in NFL history to hit 3,000 career rushing yards and 1,500 career receiving yards, coach Mike Tomlin said at the time that the team wanted to reward their running back for his continued improvement.

“Just understanding how to play the position, the nuances of the position, the protection of the ball, the protection of himself,” the head coach said. “He is a guy that has got some talent, but equally or more important than that he has a desire to be great and a work ethic to boot. He is a much better conditioned athlete today that he was in 2014. I mean it when I say all areas.”

2017 proved to be a fine year for Brown, Bell, and the Steelers. Both players earned Pro Bowl nods after combining for 3,479 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns en route to a 13-win campaign. The wheels fell off soon after. During the 2018 offseason, the Steelers once again slapped the franchise tag on Bell, but the running back refused to sign the tender. Despite occasional reports of reconciliation and a potential long-term extension, Bell’s hold out ended up lasting the entire season. He became a free agent the following offseason and inked a four-year deal with the Jets.

Brown was productive again in 2018, finishing with a career-high 15 receiving touchdowns. However, there started to be some reports of tension toward the end of that campaign. Brown apparently engaged in an argument with Ben Roethlisberger and skipped practices before their Week 17 content, leading to Brown’s benching. We later learned that Brown had become disgruntled with his role in Pittsburgh and wanted a trade. The Steelers agreed that a breakup was necessary, and they dealt Brown to the Raiders during the 2019 offseason.

Things haven’t necessarily gone swimmingly for either player since leaving Pittsburgh. Bell’s stint in New York last less than two seasons, and after cutting cut in October, he settled into a minor backup role with the Chiefs. Brown’s stint with the Raiders barely last six months; following bizarre behavior and arguments with executives, he was released by the team. He subsequently joined the Patriots, but he was cut following allegations of sexual misconduct. Following a retirement, an un-retirement, another retirement, and another un-retirement, Brown was slapped with an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He caught on with the Buccaneers in October, and he ended up hauling in two playoff touchdowns during Tampa Bay’s path to a Super Bowl championship (which somewhat ironically came against Bell’s Chiefs).

The Steelers struggled a bit during the 2018 and 2019 campaigns, combining for only 17 wins between the two seasons. They got back to their winning ways in 2020, finished 12-4 before losing in the Wild Card game.

When these transactions were completed four years ago today, there was plenty of excitement for both the players and the team. We’re sure neither side anticipated how both of these scenarios would ultimately play out.

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Le’Veon Bell To Sign With Chiefs

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.

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Jets Notes: Bell, Gase, Darnold, Anderson

Here is the latest from the Jets, beginning with some fallout from their disappointing Le’Veon Bell contract:

  • Adam Gase took issue with Bell’s social media habits and was said to have expressed dissatisfaction with the running back last season. That was a two-way street, to a degree. Bell expressed disappointment in Gase’s game plans in 2019, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Bell discussed the prospect of requesting a trade this offseason, should his Jets situation fail to improve, but decided instead to stay the course, Mehta adds. This, however, ended up being a moot subject — largely because of Bell’s disastrous contract. The Jets, who previously shopped Bell’s lucrative deal, released him Tuesday.
  • The Jets will be without Sam Darnold again this week against the Dolphins. The team will hold its starting quarterback out of its Week 6 contest, giving offseason addition Joe Flacco another start. Flacco averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt in a 195-yard day against the Cardinals.
  • By Sunday, Darnold will have missed seven career starts in his three-season NFL tenure. Durability may be a concern, even though Darnold’s absences have been related to two separate injuries and mononucleosis. The former No. 3 overall pick’s coverage recognition, however, has been a discussion point this season, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. The Jets will need to decide on Darnold’s fifth-year option by May, but they may be in position to draft Clemson prodigy Trevor Lawrence. More intel on Darnold will be necessary by season’s end, even if the team does not land the No. 1 overall pick.
  • Robby Anderson‘s Panthers pact has thus far worked out well for Carolina. On a three-game win streak, the Panthers have seen the former Jets deep threat thrive in an all-around role. Anderson has eclipsed 99 receiving yards in four of Carolina’s five games and leads the team — by more than 100 yards — with 489. Anderson did not produce a 1,000-yard season with the Jets and intimated he prefers his Panthers role. “I love being in this system because for so long it was, ‘Oh, he’s only a deep threat,'” Anderson said during an interview with Josina Anderson (via Cimini). “It used to eat me up because I’m like, ‘I know what I can do.’ I love that I’m in this offense, where I really get to catch and run and play football.” Anderson signed a two-year, $20MM deal ($12MM guaranteed) with Carolina.

Latest On Le’Veon Bell, Dolphins

Although the Chiefs profile as a team that would give Le’Veon Bell a better chance to compete for a Super Bowl championship, he trains in Miami during the offseason. And the Dolphins are not bowing out of this pursuit.

The Dolphins are believed to have offered Bell a two-year deal, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald tweets, noting that the team appears to be offering notable money as well. The Dolphins are indeed willing to dole out a “fair amount” of cash for the former All-Pro running back, Michael Giardi of NFL.com tweets.

The Dolphins hold more than $15MM in cap space; the Chiefs sit at $6MM-plus. The Chiefs believed they were on track to land Bell by Wednesday night; the Dolphins’ offer may well be holding up a Bell-to-Missouri pledge. Sean McDermott confirmed the Bills were looking into Bell, but nothing has emerged on this front over the past few hours.

Were Bell to sign with either team, he would have a chance to face the Jets. The Chiefs play the Jets in Week 8. While COVID-19 protocols would not allow Bell to join the Dolphins in a game this week, when they host the Jets, the AFC East teams’ second 2020 meeting comes in November. The Bills’ rematch with the Jets comes in Week 7.

Miami has used 2019 seventh-round pick Myles Gaskin as its primary running back as of late, doing so despite signing Jordan Howard and trading for Matt Breida this spring. Breida is a 2021 free agent, while Howard can be released free of dead-money charges next year.

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Latest On Le’Veon Bell

The Chiefs are one of three teams leading the Le’Veon Bell chase. Last night, they thought they had it wrapped up. Sources tell NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter) that the Chiefs believed that Bell would sign with them after they spoke with his camp on Wednesday. 

That’s not to say that the Chiefs are out of the mix. In fact, they’re still very much in it, along with the Bills and Dolphins. There’s just more work to be done, if they want Bell to join Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, and Darwin Thompson on their RB depth chart.

The Chiefs, who started off 4-0 before falling to the Raiders, rank eleventh in yards per carry average. Edwards-Helaire leads the pack with 344 yards and an average of 4.2 yards per tote. Beyond the rookie, however, they could use some veteran support. Kansas City made a somewhat similar move last year, signing LeSean McCoy after the Bills cut him. While McCoy played decently in spurts last season, the Chiefs made him a healthy scratch in Super Bowl LIV. Bell, however, is four years younger than McCoy and has logged more than 1,000 fewer touches.

Bell gained nearly 2,000 total yards in 2017, a year in which he was franchise-tagged by the Steelers. Then came the holdout, followed by his forgettable stretch with the Jets. The Chiefs could give Bell a prime opportunity to get back to his old form and capture another Super Bowl ring.

Now 28, Bell has not shown top form since than ’17 season. In a 2019 slate in which he averaged a career-low 3.2 yards per carry, Bell lacked the spark he displayed with the Steelers. He suffered a hamstring injury in Week 1 of this year, leading to a three-week stay on IR. However, Bell did average 4.6 yards per tote against the Cardinals on Sunday. This led to a last-ditch Jets push to trade him. But that effort did not last long. They cut him Tuesday.

The Bills and Dolphins are also believed to be in on Bell. Buffalo has relied on second-year back Devin Singletary this season, with rookie Zach Moss battling an injury. Bell would certainly supply the Bills with experience and a pass-catching pedigree their backfield lacks. The Dolphins would not profile as the kind of contender Bell reportedly seeks, but the veteran back trains in Miami during the offseason and has a home in south Florida.

Regardless of which team signs Bell, he would need to go through the enhanced coronavirus protocols with his new team. The earliest he could possibly play again would be Week 7, and that would depend on how quickly he signed.

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