Things could have gone…ah…better for running back Le’Veon Bell in his first season with the New York Jets. Following a year in which he skipped the 2018 season rather than play under a second consecutive franchise tag with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the veteran running back signed a lucrative deal in New York, but the team still finished below .500, and his numbers were well below par.
He ultimately finished with just 245 carries, easily his fewest attempts per game in his career, for a mere 789 rushing yards. He had just three rushing touchdowns on the season while averaging 3.2 yards per carry. He did not have a single rush longer than 19 yards on the year.
Bell also caught 66 passes with the Jets on 78 targets, producing an additional 461 yards, with one touchdown. He averaged seven yards per reception, the second-lowest of his career minus the injury-shortened 2015 season in which he worked primarily with Mike Vick on checkdown passes.
The Jets were hoping that Bell would be a core piece who would help change the fortunes of the franchise. After all, they signed him to a four-year deal worth $52.5 million, which included $27 million in fully guaranteed money.
He didn’t exactly receive a vote of confidence after the season was over. Addressing the media yesterday, general manager Joe Douglas told reporters, “if teams do call” about possibly inquiring about trading for his services, “I’m going to listen. How those conversations go, I can’t speak to that, that’s hypothetical. But when teams call, I will listen”.
My understanding is that the Jets could clear $9.5 million in salary cap space if they were able to trade Bell prior to the June 1st deadline at which point the figures change. They would save $13.5 million for 2019 if they were to trade him after that.
Douglas’ comments come just a day after head coach Adam Gase declined to answer questions about Bell’s future with the team, deferring to the general manager and saying that he was in charge of the personnel on the roster. He could have vouched for his player, and chose not to.
There were previous reports stating that Gase did not want the Jets to sign Bell in the first place, making it clear that he did not believe the running back position justified that sort of expenditure. Based on the results of the 2019 season, the All-Pro’s addition didn’t exactly move their needle much.
The Steelers lost two supreme talents last year in both Bell and Antonio Brown. They traded Brown to the Oakland Raiders, and he didn’t even make it to the regular season with them. He played in one game with the New England Patriots before he was released again.
While this latest development, it’s becoming increasingly possible that we see two thirds of the Killer Bs fail to reach even their second season with their new teams upon leaving Pittsburgh.