New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell was once touted as the best back in football.
But after holding out for the entirety of the 2018 season and subsequently signing with the Jets, Bell’s value is something of an unknown.
The former All-Pro has engaged in verbal sparring with head coach Adam Gase and complained about his usage in the offense. Bell hoped to have a bounce-back year in 2020, but an early trip to the injured reserve and continued losing have led to frustrations boiling over.
New York is reportedly shopping Bell, with the hopes the team can move him prior to the Oct. 29 trade deadline.
The complications of any such trade stem from Bell’s contract. The four-year deal he signed with the Jets prior to 2019 does have a potential out in 2021 with just $4 million in dead cap, which would not be the heftiest of expenses to pay.
However, it remains to be seen whether a team sees a concerted need while also having the cap flexibility to make a run at Bell. The Jets also cannot afford to run the asking price too high, or else they miss out on acquiring any value at all.
There are not many teams profiling as suitors for Bell. However, here are the three best trade destinations for Bell if he is indeed moving on from Gang Green.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
So, here is the qualifier with Pittsburgh: they do not, on the surface, need a running back.
The Steelers rank eighth in rushing yards and 10th in yards per carry. James Conner is averaging close to five yards per carry and has managed to stay pretty healthy early in the year.
However, might the Steelers look to reunite with Bell, given his familiarity with the system and the low price tag?
It was in Pittsburgh that Bell became the best back in the league, making a pair of All-Pro teams in 2014 and 2017. The holdout had a bit of ugliness on both sides, but it seems Bell would relish the chance to head back to the Steel City with the Steelers at 4-0 and looking very much like Super Bowl contenders.
Here is the other element to Pittsburgh possibly moving for Bell: the 28-year-old has been a fairly steady mentor for Conner. The two worked out multiple times over the summer, and perhaps the Steelers feel Bell can thrive in the same backfield as Conner.
2. Chicago Bears
The Bears might not be on this list were it not for Tarik Cohen’s season-ending injury. Now, it seems fairly obvious they could use depth in the backfield.
David Montgomery is a strong runner who embraces contact and can make plays in the passing game. But Montgomery is also averaging just 3.9 yards per carry after averaging 3.7 last season.
Chicago desperately needs to establish the run to take some of the pressure off the newly installed Nick Foles.
The veteran has shockingly struggled with his deep ball early, instead resorting to dump-offs in last Thursday’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fortunately for the Bears, the defense held serve. But the Bears need more complexity on the offensive side of the ball, and adding someone like Bell might help.
Bell excels at making plays after the catch in the passing game. The Jets running back can churn out yards on screens or in the flats, whereas Montgomery might be best used in the slot because of his route-running ability.
If nothing else, trading for Bell could give the Bears a different look and possibly enhance Matt Nagy’s playmaking capacity, though Nagy has lacked the creativity he displayed in his first season as Bears head coach.
1. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have had a running carousel of running backs in the last few years.
Miami signed Jordan Howard in free agency, but he has been totally ineffective. The Dolphins traded for Matt Breida, but he has not made much of an impact, either.
Second-year back Myles Gaskin has gotten more extensive usage both on the ground and in the passing game, but he is also still averaging below four yards per carry.
The Dolphins climbed back into the playoff picture after destroying the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Perhaps this is the time for Miami to make an impact move to try and kickstart the running game.
It was reported Bell was interested in signing with the Dolphins prior to his decision to sign with the Jets.
The Dolphins rank toward the bottom of the NFL in run-blocking, per Football Outsiders, and perhaps they feel Bell would hardly be an upgrade given some of his struggles in New York.
At the same time, perhaps Brian Flores and Ryan Fitzpatrick desire another playmaker as they hope to sustain momentum and continue the playoff push.