It may sound like a hilariously wacky turn of events after Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets in the offseason, but it’s really not that unexpected. Bell was signed by the team when Mike Maccagnan was general manager of the franchise, despite new head coach Adam Gase reportedly pushing back against a pricy investment at running back.
Maccagnan was fired in May and replaced with former Eagles executive Joe Douglas. Douglas has no ties to the decision to sign Bell, and Gase didn’t seem to want Bell on the team in the first place.
With the Jets season in the tank, it’s time to start thinking about the future. Shipping away pricy contracts and getting draft capital in return was a smart move for New York.
Bell is averaging a career-worst in yards per carry, although it’s hard to blame him for drowning in an offense that can’t do much of anything right. In the right situation, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Bell was able to return to the form that made him a star with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets probably couldn’t get a ton in return for Bell — considering his contract — a mid-round selection to take on all that money could do it.
So we took a look at teams that we thought would be the best fit for Bell before the Tuesday afternoon deadline: Alas! None of them came to fruition, but it’s still fun to think about.
Mitchell Trubisky is the biggest problem for the Chicago offense right now, but quarterback is an issue that probably can’t be addressed until the offseason. The Bears can, however, give themselves a scoring boost right away with Bell.
Chicago’s rushing offense is currently relying on third-round rookie David Montgomery to lead the way. While he had a 135-yard day against the Chargers in Week 8, he averaged just 38.5 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry in the first three weeks of the year.
The loss of the bruising style of running provided by Jordan Howard has hurt Tarik Cohen too. The smaller, electric back is a great complement to a running back that can grind away at teams, but Cohen is averaging just 2.3 yards per carry in 2019.
The Bears can’t afford to sit on their hands and waste a defense that is among the NFL’s best. — AS
Kerryon Johnson is the only running back since 2013 to top 100 yards in a game for the Lions. He’s also on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury earlier in October. Now the Lions have Tra Carson — a running back who’s been on three rosters in the last 13 months and was claimed off waivers two weeks ago — to be the starter.
The Lions can afford the contract and are still in the mix in the NFC North at 3-3-1. Fixing the defense is a higher priority for Detroit, but if the price is right, Bell could be a great fit. — AS
Kansas City has made hay with LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams in the backfield, and fitting the remainder of Bell’s pricy contract onto its books with Patrick Mahomes due for a massive extension would be tricky. But Bell could thrive in Andy Reid’s uptempo offense. His ability to run crisp routes and adjust to his quarterback’s scrambling outside the pocket would be a boon for the Chiefs.
The current Jet hasn’t been especially impressive in his first season away from the Steelers, averaging career lows in both yards per carry and yards per target. Those numbers, however, are much more damning to New York’s abject lack of blocking and playmakers than any sudden regression from Bell. His 16-carry, 70-yard performance against New England’s smothering defense lends hope he can regain his value in the right environment.
McCoy’s revival in the AFC West suggests Kansas City could be the perfect change of scenery. Like Bell, the former Eagle and Bill averaged just 3.2 yards per carry in Buffalo last fall. In 2019, that number has rebounded to an uber-efficient 5.2 thanks to a significantly better cast of blockers and the wide array of looming downfield threats that keep opponents from even thinking about loading the box against the run.
Bell’s already proven he can create space against the Chiefs’ biggest threat in the AFC. And while he’d eat up $15.5 million in dead cap space in 2020 — the final inexpensive year of Mahomes’ rookie contract before a fifth-year option likely quadruples his salary — he could be cut before 2021 while leaving just $4 million in dead space going forward. It’d be an expensive luxury for Kansas City, but Reid could use all the help he can get. — CD
The most successful offense Tennessee fielded in the last decade was in 2016 when Derrick Henry was a rookie. He and DeMarco Murray had a thunder and lightning dynamic that saw Henry finish the year with 490 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while Murray had 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns.
Henry’s offensive output and workload has increased now that Murray’s retired, but the Titans haven’t really steamrolled teams like that since. Tennessee tried to recreate a two-headed monster attack by signing Dion Lewis in free agency, but the former Patriots running back has been a dud in Tennessee.
Bell could add a dynamic weapon to a Titans offense that is finally starting to show signs of life now that it has Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. And if the Titans decide to move on from Henry in the offseason — he’s set to become a free agent in March — they’ll have a capable replacement for the future in Bell. — AS
OK, look, I understand the Ravens don’t absolutely need a back like Bell when they already has Mark Ingram. But I am extremely here for QB Lamar Jackson having a guy like Bell in the backfield, especially when it comes down to playoff time for the Ravens. Ingram has seven TDs so far this season, but mixing in Bell into the Ravens’ running game would be a positive addition to the offense, and it could take the pressure off of Jackson to run the ball so often.
The Ravens likely couldn’t afford getting Bell without sending someone else to the Jets, but that could be solved by giving New York cornerback Jimmy Smith. Smith has been banged up all season (and career) long — he played in just one game this year, suffering a knee sprain early during Baltimore’s Week 1 game against the Miami Dolphins.
I realize my reasoning is solely so Jackson can have more weapons in his arsenal, but I love the idea of Bell adding another wrinkle in the Ravens’ fun offense. —MM
James Conner is hurt. So is Benny Snell. So is Jaylen Samuels. Even when they’re all healthy they’ve averaged 3.8 yards per carry this fall.
Just saying. — CD