Last night the New York Jets shockingly released their star running back Le’Veon Bell. After signing a 4 year $52.5 Million deal with the team they released Bell after 18 games. During his only full season with the team Bell recorded career low in scrimmage yards with 1,250. Head coach Adam Gase seemed to struggle and sometimes resist using Bell heavily in their offense. Given Bells age and talent it was obvious that he wanted his way off the 0-5 New York Jets who are the favorite to land the first overall selection.
Even though most teams seem to be content with their backfield and their backfield depth, Bell is way too talented to go without a team for long. Many teams could use an addition of a star offensive player like Bell who regardless of the role he is in can be dangerous to opposing defenses.
Bell clears waivers at 4:00 Eastern Time today. Here are some teams who could sign Bell after that time.
There aren’t many backfields that Le’Veon Bell can take over after a week or two. The Chicago Bears are one of those backfields. Coming into 2020 the Bears backfield was expected to be split between Tarik Cohen and second year running back David Montgomery. Montgomery was considered to be a potential breakout candidate because even though this backfield was going to be split, Montgomery was supposed to see a majority of the snaps and carries and so far that has held true. He has seen at least ten carries in every game this season. But has failed to get more than 82 rushing yards a game. He has averaged 3.7 yards per carry this season. Since Tarik Cohen tore his ACL Week 2 he has averaged just under 34 yards a game and under three yards a carry.
The Bears are 3-1 and appear to be a playoff team despite their offensive struggles. Bell can help this team become the ground and pound team that wins because of their ability to control the clock with a strong running game and defense. The Bears passing game can’t continue to carry this offense, their quarterback situation is one of the most concerning in the league. Nick Foles is a reliable starter but cannot carry this team past there first round of the playoffs by himself. Though Bell would almost likely split time down the middle with Montgomery, he would add a new dimension to this offense. This seems like a perfect marriage between a veteran player trying to win now and a team who is one offensive weapon away from being viewed as a contender.
It has been surprising that the Eagles have went into 2020 with a running back group where there is a legitimate starter and is not a committee. Since taking over as head coach in 2015, Doug Pederson has implemented a backfield with multiple star veterans who each have a specific role. But in 2020, the Eagles backfield has mostly belonged to Miles Sanders. Through out the four games he has played this season he has 316 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He has also been a factor in the passing game because of the lack of depth at wide receiver due to injury.
Bell can be the missing offensive pieces that the Eagles need to reemerge as favorites in the NFC East. Their offense has struggled because of Carson Wentz‘s inability to make plays with the weapons they have now, the injuries to the teams three top receivers DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffrey, and first round pick Jalen Reagor, and Zach Ertz has been getting double and triple covered because teams would rather let Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham bet them then the All-Pro tight end. Bell can help take attention off of Ertz and prevent the Eagles from running Sanders 275-300 times this season. Pederson can get the running back committee he is more comfortable with with two Pro Bowl running backs.
Bell may not receive the carries he believes in Philadelphia and he may not be there long, but the Eagles are a well coached team that can potentially host a home playoffs game by winning the weak NFC East. At this point of the season Bell can’t ask for much more.
As crazy as a return to Pittsburgh sounds, it is a realistic possibility for Bell. Since Bell held out during the 2018 season, James Conner has been the teams workhorse back and has filled the role quite nicely when healthy. His biggest problem has been stay healthy the past few seasons. Conner has missed time for different injuries throughout his career as a starter. Last season Conner missed six games and even after returning from injury late last season he didn’t have the same burst and looked like he would be better off being in a committee. Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels have seen large roles in Pittsburgh backfield at times, but none have been able assert themselves as the teams lead back over Conner.
If the Steelers were to bring back Bell, the whole team and veterans who were around during Bell’s holdout must sign off on the transaction. There was a lot of bad blood between Bell and his former teammates. But if everyone forgives and forgets and he returns to Pittsburgh, Bell will have a great opportunity to reassert himself as a top 5 running back in the NFL in this offense. The Steelers have one of the leagues best offensive lines and overall offenses. Though he would not have the same role as he had prior he can still be affective in limited time. After a few games it could be realistic to see Bell receive 35% percent of the snaps while Conner see’s 55% and the remaining 10% can be split between Snell, Samuels, and Anthony McFarland.
Adding Bell to their explosive offense could be the cherry on top to potentially give them an edge over the Kansas City Chiefs and division rival Baltimore Ravens in the AFC. The last time Bell played a snap for the Steelers they were in the AFC Championship. This season they may already have the roster to return to the AFC Championship, but adding Bell can take them the next step.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are not in need of anymore offensive weapons. Between Travis Kelce, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson. Patrick Mahomes has all the pieces he needs to fuel another Super Bowl run. However their thinnest position on offense is running back. Since Damien Williams has opted out of the season the only backs behind Edwards-Helaire are Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson, and DeAndre Washington. Williams and Thompson have accounted for less than 70 rushing yards through five games. Washington hasn’t had a rushing attempt for the Chiefs yet. Edwards-Helaire has 513 total scrimmage yards and has been taking advantage of the fact that defenses have been focusing on Mahomes and the passing game than him. However he has been ineffective on the goal line, not scoring a touchdown from that close this season.
Bell can be another weapon at the disposal of Mahomes, Andy Reid, and this offense. It would be hard for him to carve a prominent role with a workhorse running back and so many weapons in place beforehand. But he could have a role in this offense. He also serves as an insurance policy if anything was to happen to Edwards-Helaire causing him to miss time, the running game would be just as affective if that was to happen. Andy Reid could get creative and find ways to use both Edwards-Helaire and Bell on the field as the same time leaving defenses to scratch their heads.
The Chiefs are heavily favored to win the Super Bowl again this season which will be very attractive to a player like Bell who is trying to win a ring. But for the fist time in almost a year the Chiefs lost a game this past weekend to the Las Vegas Raiders. Bell could make the offense that much better and ensure that the Chiefs are in a position to repeat again.
The Buffalo Bills backfield hasn’t had a running back emerge yet but has been effective enough to help this team get to 4-1. This may be because their most dominant ball carrier is quarterback Josh Allen. Running back Devin Singletary does lead the team in rushes and rushing yards with 238 yards off 61 attempts, but Allen has 101 yards and three touchdowns on 29 attempts. Rookie running back Zack Moss has only 48 yards on 17 attempts but also has missed the last two games because of an injury. Now that the Bills have turned into a pass first team Allens ability to scramble for first downs and more has made him the teams most dangerous rusher.
However if Le’Veon Bell was introduced to the Bills backfield, they would really have a sure and proven thing at the position. Something that Singletary and Moss haven’t become in their short times in the league. If Bell was to sign here the backfield wouldn’t solely go to him, he would likely split carries with the other two backs creating a three headed monster committee that would eventually be led by Bell. This season the Bills had their first 4-0 start since 2008, many believe they can compete with the best of the best in the AFC, despite their loss to the Tennessee Titans last week. Adding a talent like Bell could give the Bills a star at every level of their offense and keep them in the Super Bowl conversation as the season goes on.
New England Patriots
How fitting would it be for a Le’Veon Bell to fail with the New York Jets and land with the New England Patriots and reemerge as a star. As fitting it would be from first glance this team doesn’t appear to need to add Bell to their backfield. The Patriots have multiple running backs capable of taking over the backfield and offense any game of the season including James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, J.J. Taylor, and Sony Michel who is currently on IR. Not to mention their starting quarterback Cam Newton is second on the team in rushing and leads the team in rushing attempts and touchdowns.
The Patriots would have to let go of a running back if they wanted to sign Bell. Realistically they would add Bell to their backfield now and when Michel came back from IR, move Taylor to the practice squad. What Bell brings to the table is that he can be used in multiple different ways. The Patriots lack running backs that can do multiple things. White is the passing down back, Harris is the between the tackles rusher, and Burkhead kind does both but isn’t above average at either. Bell would be an upgrade over Burkhead because he is better than him at being a pass catcher and as a runner. His patience and running style is something that the Patriot or any other backfield in the league has and would be a great asset to the Patriots offense.
New England lost Tom Brady because he felt like he needed better weapons to thrive in New England. Signing Bell would give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes in the past and show they are willing to give their quarterback as much offensive help as he needs to succeed. Also it is no secret that players who play for Belichick after a down year usually thrive and play up to their true potential. That is exactly what Bell is trying to prove to himself and the league that he can play at an elite level again.
The Seattle Seahawks are 5-0 and are considered the best team in the NFC. This is despite the teams awful defensive play this early in the season. Quarterback Russell Wilson has carried this team to every victory so far this season. However as great of a pace Wilson is on he may not be able to keep it up through out the entire season and postseason. It is too big of an ask of just one player. Last season Patrick Mahomes had his defense help him on the way to the Super Bowl. Their backfield is lead by Chris Carson who is one of the most underrated backs in the league, but has had problems at times staying healthy. Earlier this year after their game with Dallas, Carson had dealt with a knee injury which could have thrusted Carlos Hyde into the starting role. Hyde showed last season that he is a capable starting running back. But if Bell is on the market, Seattle may look to invest in Carson insurance that can fill his void completely.
What ultimately led to the end of the Seahawks chances of reaching a Super Bowl last season was that seemingly all of the Seahawks running backs got hurt. It got to the point that they brought Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to play in their final games. However Bell is more than just a back up running back. He can compliment Carson the way that they envisioned former first round pick Rashaad Penny complimenting Carson. Signing Bell may lead to the ultimate release of Penny who has been extremely disappointing since he joined Seattle in 2017. Seattle can finally give Russell Wilson the playmakers he needs to return to the Super Bowl by adding Bell to their already explosive offense.
There are not much more a free agent can ask for than what Seattle can provide. Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson, and possibly the first seed in the NFC. That may be enough for Bell to sign with them, regardless of the fact that he may not receive the amount of work he feels he deserves in this offense. If he was to join Seattle, he may have to make up wit former teammate Jamal Adams who he had gotten into a fight with on twitter after Adams forced his way off the Jets to Seattle.