Finally Le’Veon Bell has the long-term deal he couldn’t land with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Bell plans to sign with the New York Jets. The deal is for four years and $52.5 million and has a max value of $61 million with $35 million guaranteed, according to the report.
Bell tweeted early Wednesday, “I’m back in the green baby, let’s get it.”
The San Francisco 49ers were among Bell’s bidders who “made a strong offer,” according to the report. But the Jets ultimately won out.
The signing ends a long saga that included two franchise tags with the Steelers and one high-profile holdout. Bell didn’t play last season, passing on about $14.5 million in salary for one season. Bell was betting that he could hit the open market this year and cash in big.
Le’Veon Bell was an interesting free-agent case
Bell came into free agency as one of the most intriguing players to hit the market in a while.
Bell’s talent is undeniable. He was an All-Pro in 2014, and then again in 2017 as he played the season on his first franchise tag. In three different seasons he gained 1,800 yards from scrimmage, including 2,215 in 2014.
He also had a lot of use with the Steelers. In 2017 he had a league-high 406 touches. In that 2017 season, Bell’s yards per carry dropped almost a full yard, from 4.9 in 2016 to 4. That’s a bit troubling. Part of Bell’s decision to hold out last season had to be the concern about being given another 400 touches before he could hit free agency.
So Bell held out. That complicated his free-agency market. He hit the market at 27 years old, and the clock is always ticking on running backs. Teams mostly avoid big long-term deals on running backs, which is one reason the Steelers never gave into Bell’s demands.
Bell should have some prime years left
Bell hasn’t played in a year, but we all remember his all-around skill set. Bell is good between the tackles, has the speed to break long runs, is good near the goal line and is an outstanding receiver out of the backfield. One reason the Steelers kept him on the field nearly the entire time was that they didn’t have to take him out. He can do it all.
Even though backs get riskier the longer they play, Bell is a fantastic talent and should be a good investment. Players like him don’t hit free agency too often, and he’s not exactly an old man at age 27.
One of the stories that dragged on all last season was Bell and his holdout. Now there’s a more interesting storyline: How Bell plays in his new NFL home, with the contract he was looking for.
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