After reportedly trying to trade Le’Veon Bell, the lowly New York Jets gave up on their expensively acquired running back and released him Tuesday night.
The Jets are still on the hook to pay Bell the prorated remainder of his base salary, which amounts to $6 million, which means any team can steal the veteran RB for the NFL’s league minimum.
But Le’Veon Bell isn’t the RB1 he was in Pittsburg (sorry Steeler fans he’s not going back). His five longest runs since joining the New York Jets in 2019 have been 19, 15, 15, 14, and 13 yards.
While he’s never going to be the back that you hand the rock to 20-25 times a game.
If Bell can put aside his ego and embrace being a 3rd down blocking back who gets targeted 3-5 times a game, then Bell can certainly become an important cog for any NFL playoff team.
Possible Destinations for Le’Veon Bell
#1 – Chicago Bears
The Bears seem like the most obvious landing spot. Off to a 4-1 start Matt Nagy’s has his team heading for a possible return to the playoffs. As of right now ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Bears a 55.8% chance of making it to the postseason.
Bell would be a perfect plug-n-play replacement for Tarik Cohen, who went down with a torn ACL at the end of September. Bell could step in and take the eight to 10 touches per game that Cohen was getting before he was injured.
David Montgomery at present if the Bears featured back, but so far the 2019 3rd rounder has been a major disappointment. Bell could give the Bears some insurance in case the wheels finally come off the Montgomery train.
The biggest concern I would have is if Montgomery continues failing to impress, then how long before the “Make Le’Veon RB1” chirping commence, and in turn cause Nagy some angst inside his lockerroom?
#2 – Kansas City Chiefs
Rookie first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire has had impressive moments during his first five weeks, but he has struggled in the red zone, failing to score once on seven touches inside the 5-yard line.
OC Eric Bieniemy has already hinted that its, not Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s ability, or the other team that’s stopping him, but CEH not following the scheme, or failing to read his keys correctly, which happens with a majority of rookie running backs.
But what if CEH goes down with an injury, or continues to struggle at the goal line? Darrel Williams has averaged 3.2 yards per carrying and less than 6 yards per reception, and Darwin Thompson lost a fumble on one of his six touches that almost let the Baltimore Ravens back in a game that the Chiefs were completely dominating.
Coach Andy Reid is the master of the screen, and just last year bringing in aging, once great, running back like LeSean McCoy. I suspect ‘Big Red’ could find a way to integrate Bell into their offense alongside Edwards-Helaire.
#3 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady still hasn’t really found an effective receiver coming out of the backfield. Ronald Jones has been solid as a runner, but he has had serious problems with drops. Leonard Fournette isn’t healthy and maybe listed as week-to-week for the remainder of his career. LeSean McCoy hasn’t been effective in any facet of the game and has become very fragile, so all the Bucs would need to do is swap McCoy’s roster spot for Bell.
But would Bell accept a role as Brady’s pass-protector and 3rd-down receiver? If he does then Le’Veon Bell would give something the Bucs, and Brady they don’t have.
#4 – Cleveland Browns
But Chubb is out indefinitely with a sprained MCL, and possibly the entirety of the season. Bell won’t replace the power running of Chubb but can with the Brown’s stout offensive line Bell could return to being an effective runner between the tackles as he was in Pittsburg.
But here’s the fly in the ointment, similar to Chicago Bell would take snaps away from D’Ernest Johnson, who albeit a small sample, has averaged 6 yards a pop filling in for Chubb, so that could cause problems inside the locker room.
Plus, knowing Chubb will eventually return to reclaim his RB1 spot if Bell splits time with D’Ernest Johnson will he grow frustrated knowing he’s not getting the rock enough to show other teams that he still has something left in the tank when he hits free agency next year?
#5 – San Francisco 49ers
For the past few years, San Francisco players seem to get banged up more than most, and despite the 40’ers getting Raheem Mostert back last Sunday’s for their blowout loss to the Dolphins, virtually every one of its backs has a recent and/or significant injury history.
Also like Reid, Shanahan can be creative in using Bell less like a pure running back in order to get him additional touches.
Shanahan loves nothing more than having offensive weapons who are threats as both runners and receivers with the ball in their hands, and Bell would make a perfect hybrid player for the 49’ers head coach to scheme around.
#6 – Seattle Seahawks
Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde form the backbone of the Seahawks rotation, but Carson has never completed a full 16-game season, and Hyde has been out of action with a shoulder injury.
Last week Travis Homer took more than 40% of the offensive snaps during Sunday night’s win over the Vikings. But the second-year back has often been the focal point of criticism as a result of a few doomed handoffs.
While Homer has been a reliable third-down option as a blocker and a pass-catcher, Bell would certainly be an upgrade and without a doubt, he’ll immediately become the Seahawks best receiver out of the backfield.
#7 – Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins’ backfield hasn’t performed up to expectations this season. Miami guaranteed Jordan Howard nearly $5 million, but the former Chicago starter produced just 14 rushing yards on 18 carries before being scratched for the win over the 49ers.
Matt Breida’s 27 carries have produced a total of 100 yards, but the primary back has been 2019 seventh-rounder Myles Gaskin, who has 87 touches through five games while taking 66% of the offensive snaps.
But will it serve Le’Veon Bell to sign with a team that isn’t being highlighted on ESPN and at best has very little chance at making the playoffs?