Le’Veon Bell would be the weapon Sam Darnold desperately needs, but it’d be foolish to believe that he’s a slam dunk to land in green-and-white. The Jets will not break the bank in free agency for the dynamic playmaker, according to sources.
Although I think that Gang Green should fold up shop if they don’t aggressively pursue the dual-threat running back, there is a level of concern in the building about Bell’s motivation if he lands a big payday.
I think it’s ridiculous to believe that Bell, who sat out this season rather than play for the Steelers on the $14.5 million franchise tag, will mail it in after getting a multi-year deal. But it’d be disingenuous to suggest that line of thinking doesn’t exist in league circles.
So, I’ve been told that the Jets, who will have about $100 million in salary cap space, won’t adopt a do-whatever-it-takes approach to sign Bell.
That doesn’t mean they won’t make a fair and competitive offer. It simply means that they aren’t handing over a blank check for his services.
Bell reportedly turned down the Steelers’ five-year, $70 million offer last summer that included $33 million in guarantees.
Would the Jets be willing to dole out $40+ million in full guarantees for a running back when more affordable (yet still effective) options exist?
Bell’s true market won’t be expansive. The Colts, who have the most projected salary cap space $110+ million), aren’t likely to pony up that type of loot for a running back (especially after Marlon Mack proved to be effective this season). The Jets, Buccaneers, Eagles, Raiders and perhaps the Dolphins are potential fits.
The Bucs are an interesting destination given what Bruce Arians did with David Johnson as a runner and pass catcher in Arizona. (Ironically, new Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles wasn’t exactly on the Bell bandwagon when he was in charge of the Jets).
The Eagles desperately need backfield help. Tampa and Philly, however, aren’t exactly flush with cap space at the moment. It would take some creativity to make it happen.
The Jets have ample space to sign Bell and address other areas of need like offensive line and edge rusher. (Remember: Gang Green will be filling one giant hole early in the draft too).
The question is: How much cash are they actually willing to fork over for Bell?
McLendon: “Just know that he’s going to bring the best out of so many people. Just imagine: He’d be the Jamal Adams on offense. Loud. Energetic. Confident … And he’s going to make plays.”
Beachum: “I think he has a desire to prove people wrong that say that he took this year off and then he’s going to shut it down (after getting paid).”
It’s a no-brainer in a vacuum. Bell instantly will transform a Jets offense that languished near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories.
“I expect him to come back and light this league up,” McLendon told me. “Whoever has him on their team will have not only a great guy, but a great player. Like a future Hall of Famer. He’s that type of guy. I’m not just talking. I’ve seen how much work he puts in. I’ve seen a lot to know that he’s one of those guys that got it. At the end of the day, whoever has him on their team next year, they’re going to get a baaad man.”
That sounds great, but the Jets aren’t going to break the bank for him.