After holding out the 2018 season, running back Le’Veon Bell is now in a New York State of Mind.
The former Pittsburgh Steelers running back signed a 4-year, $52.5 million deal with the New York Jets. The deal includes $35 million guaranteed and could balloon to $61 million with incentives. This contract gives Bell an average per year salary of $13.25 million, which ranks second in the league only behind Rams running back Todd Gurley.
This addition gives both sides what they want. Bell is now among one of the top paid backs in the league and the Jets have a weapon to for their young quarterback.
I’m back in the green baby, let’s get it
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) March 13, 2019
Ending the Hold Out
The signing with the Jets ends a year-long battle to get more contract money. Bell was placed on the franchise tag by the Pittsburgh Steelers, which would’ve paid the star back $14.5 million. However, Bell demanded a long-term deal. During the contract negotiations, Bell missed all of the team’s off-season activities, including training camp. This hold out continued into the regular season where Bell missed the entire season because he didn’t report before the deadline to sign his franchise tender.
At the start of this off-season, Steelers announced they wouldn’t put the franchise tag on Bell for the third time. This allowed Bell to become a free agent. Reports were circulating on which teams might be interested in Bell. It appeared Bell was most interested in joining the Jets or Pittsburgh’s heated division rivals, the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens and another popular team mentioned, the Oakland Raiders, didn’t appear to be realistic suitors.
The contract the Jets gave Bell is less than what he was offered on multiple occasions by the Steelers.
On the Field
For the past year, there has been a lot of talk about Le’Veon Bell off the field. Now, landing with the New York Jets, we can discuss his play on the field.
Bell makes a seemingly perfect fit for the New York Jets. He provides a complement in the backfield for second-year quarterback Sam Darnold. Where Bell is going to be most productive is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield.
The offense run by new head coach Adam Gase is predicated on running backs catching passes out of the backfield. This was evident when Gase was the head coach and offensive play-caller for the division rival Miami Dolphins. Starting Dolphins back Kenyan Drake had 53 receptions for 477 yards and five touchdowns. Bell posted 85 receptions in 2017.
This signing should give a boost to a lethargic Jets offense that finished toward the bottom in every major offensive statistical category in 2018. They finished the season ranked 29th in total yards and 26th in rushing yards.
Bell has the potential, given his playmaking ability, to be the first Jets running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since 2015. He rushed for 1,000 yards three times in his career, the last one coming in his last season in Pittsburgh.
The Jets will continue to build around Darnold and Bell during this free agency period. New York holds the third pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The first round will take place on April 25th in Nashville, TN.