The New York Jets handed Le’Veon Bell a four-year, $52.5 million ($27 million guaranteed) contract in March. Bell has not rewarded the Jets on their investment, instead producing the worst season of his career. To compound matters, Bell inexplicably went bowling until 1 a.m. the night before a game—hours after he was ruled out with the flu.
According to the New York Post, Bell was seen at a New Jersey bowling alley on Saturday night. This came after Bell missed practice on Thursday and Friday due to illness. Bell did not attend the team’s walkthrough on Saturday, but the tailback managed to bowl that evening.
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) December 10, 2019
Bell disrespected the Jets and their fan base by bowling hours after being ruled inactive. Head coach Adam Gase even admitted it was bad optics.
"What am I gonna discipline him for? I can't tell him you have to stay in your house" – Adam Gase says the optics are bad with the Le'Veon Bell story but he won't be disciplined pic.twitter.com/bRV5M4tg0k
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) December 10, 2019
The Pittsburgh Steelers dealt with Bell’s diva-like attitude and stuck by him through multiple league-imposed suspensions because of his terrific on-field production. He made three Pro Bowls with the Steelers and was named an All-Pro twice.
Had Bell still been ripping through opposing defenses, the Jets could have overlooked him bowling after being deemed too sick to practice during the week or play Sunday. But the 27-year-old is now one of the least effective running backs. He averages a league-worst 3.2 yards per carry. His longest run of the season is 19 yards and has only three rushing TDs.
Bell has yet to top 70 rushing yards in any game this season. His backup, Bilal Powell, ran for 74 yards in Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins. Bell totaled just 32 yards on the ground in his most recent contest against the Cincinnati Bengals, who rank dead-last in rushing defense.
The Jets’ offensive line deserves plenty of blame for failing to open up running lanes. However, Bell was given the second-most lucrative contract among running backs because of his shiftiness and ability to make plays in situations when others could not. He was paid to overcome the deficiencies of the Jets’ o-line.
The Jets need to find a team desperate enough to trade for Bell’s massive contract, which includes $13 million guaranteed for 2020. They reportedly tried to move him at the trade deadline. New York’s current front office has no major ties to Bell. After all, it was former general manager Mike Maccagnan who signed Bell.
Gase was against the signing because he felt it was not worth devoting that much money into a running back. Gase was right, and now the Jets are tasked with ridding themselves of Bell’s contract.
Bell has done enough in his career for teams to believe he can return to being a dynamic halfback if given the right situation. The Washington Redskins are notorious for making major splashes in the offseason, many of which lack the best long-term consideration of the organization. Perhaps the Jets can swing a deal with the Redskins, who could use another running back to pair with the oft-injured Derrius Guice.
Regardless of which teams show interest, it’s clear the Bell experiment in New York has failed. The relationship between Bell and Gase is too strained to continue and the latter is expected to remain with the club next season. The Jets have no choice but to explore trade options for Bell as soon as the upcoming offseason begins.