Le'Veon Bell Could Be A Free Agent At 4:01pm Wednesday Afternoon.....And Then A Patriot?
The Jets have announced they plan on releasing disgruntled running back LeVeon Bell.
This release won't be official until the end of the NFL's business day at 4:00 on Wednesday, and that leaves the door open for teams to make a last ditch effort to trade for Bell before he hits the open market and into a bidding frenzy for his services.
Teams that want to avoid an auction-style price tag for him may want to trade for him before he hits the open market. The problem with that is any team trading for Bell would then also get his contract that he is currently playing under, and that is likely something that will not be very appetizing to many teams.
Bell is slated to make $28.4-million for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, and that's not including the remainder of his $15.5-million he is owed for the rest of this season, although the Jets are said to be willing to eat $6-million of that amount.
That's a lot of money and cap space for a guy who hasn't rushed for 100-yards in a game since 2017 when he played for the Steelers.
Bell elected to sit out the 2018 season instead of playing under the franchise tag the Steelers placed on him after the 2017 season. He then joined the Jets after they offered him a 4-year, $52.5-million contract in March of 2019, soon after the 2018 NFL season ended in February.
Bell went on to play 17 games with the Jets and has averaged only 3.3 yards per carry -- 51st out of 53 qualifying runners in the NFL during that span.
That's a lot of coin for less-than-mediocre stats.
Bell is 28-years old and does have a bit of an injury history, and that is apparently one of the sticking points the Jets dealt with while trying to trade him.
It has been reported that within Bell's contract there is an $8 million injury guarantee for the 2021 season. No team wanted to take on such a risk, fearing a serious injury this season would put them on the hook for that $8-million while Bell was on the rehab table for the year.
In the end, it looks like Bell will have the opportunity to play for his choice of teams that come knocking at his door. The Jets have given Bell permission to seek a trade, so he already has permission to talk to other teams while still under contract until 4:00 on Wednesday. I'm sure his phone is getting quite a workout already.
There is a lot of talk about which teams would have interest in bringing Bell aboard, and those opinions vary widely, but one that might be of interest in the New England area would be the prospect of Bell joining Cam Newton and the Patriots.
The Patriots have plenty of cap space, with $23.8-million free and clear for this season, so that wouldn't hinder their attempt if they were inclined to make one.
They could also use Bell's pass-catching ability, as the receiving targets for Newton are fairly limited, and Bell is very proficient in that area.
James White is the teams main go-to guy out of the backfield as a receiver, but he is playing on the last year of his contract.
White is also 28-years old and was drafted in 2014, one year after Bell was drafted.
The team could very easily decide to ride with White and rookie Damien Harris for the foreseeable future and avoid the added expense and the injury risk that Bell would bring to the team, but for an offense that has so heavily relied on RB's catching passes, having two guys who thrive in that type of offensive scheme would be a luxury that only a team with plenty of cap space can afford, and the Patriots have that space.
I don't think it will take long before we know where Bell will end-up for the rest of this season. If he does hit the open market at 4:00 on Thursday I'd expect to hear by 8:00 the same day that he has decided where he'll be playing next.
The Patriots will definitely be looking into what it would take to bring him aboard, but only time will tell whether or not that what Bell wants is on par with what the Patriots want to give. The cap space is there, the roster availability is there, and now the two sides would have to come-up with a way to generate contract terms that work for both parties.