After a disastrous tenure in Gang Green, cryptic Twitter likes and a feud with coach Adam Gase, Le’Veon Bell was mercifully released Tuesday. While the Jets must reckon with yet another terrible free-agent signing, Bell now has the ability to choose where he wants to play next.
The three-time All-Pro can still be an effective player. While some might think the 28-year-old running back is washed, the three-time All-Pro can still be effective in the right situation. He won't ever be a player who gets $13 million per year, but there are plenty of teams who could use Bell’s patient running approach and pass-catching ability on a league-minimum contract.
Which teams would be interested in the once-great running back? Here are his six best landing spots.
New England Patriots
They already resuscitated Cam Newton’s career. What’s one more? While the Patriots have a cadre of backs, they do not have a singular stud and usually find themselves compensating either through between-the-tackles runners or backs who are better served catching the ball. When the Patriots play Rex Burkhead or James White, it’s usually an obvious tell that they are going to pass the ball, giving the defense a massive hint at what’s coming. And when more traditional, ground-and-pound guys such as Sony Michel and Damien Harris are on the field, it’s highly likely the Pats are looking to run the ball.
By adding Bell, New England could have both skills in one player. Judging Bell based on his Jets tenure would be unwise, considering his coach openly despised him, his offensive line resembled Swiss Cheese and his longest run went for a paltry 19 yards. But if teams can remember Bell’s time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, when he accumulated 1,271 receiving yards in his last 27 games, compared to 500 receiving yards in 17 games with the Jets, they should pounce at the opportunity to acquire a versatile back on the market.
Plus, Belichick would love another opportunity to stick it to the Jets.
Incumbent running backs Devin Singletary and Zach Moss are solid, yet unspectacular. After a promising rookie year in which he averaged 5.1 yards per rush, Singletary has regressed slightly, totaling just 3.9 yards per attempt this season. While there are concerns over his fumbling issues, Singletary is a talented back who's broken 17 tackles off runs this season, which ranks in seventh-best among backs. But the Bills have shown that they don't think he's capable of being the bell-cow back in Buffalo. That's why they drafted Moss, who has barely run the ball this year, totaling only 17 rush attempts in 5 games this season due to a nagging toe injury. He averaged an anemic 2.8 yards per rush while catching only one pass before getting hurt.
In an offense where Josh Allen has leveled up and is surrounded by stud receiver Stefon Diggs, speedster John Brown and the reliable Cole Beasley, having a big-time back has not been essential, but it could definitely push this team to be even greater.
The Bears, despite benching Mitchell Trubisky, are miraculously 4-1 thanks to the strength of their defense mixed in with some spectacular playmaking courtesy of Allen Robinson and a resurgent Jimmy Graham. The running game, though? It could use some work. Losing the do-it-all speedster Tarik Cohen to a torn ACL was a tough blow, and it’s heaped more responsibility on former third-round pick David Montgomery. Monty still hasn’t cracked four yards per carry, and he’s a nascent pass catcher with a low 69.6 catch percentage. By bringing in Bell, who racked up 1,946 yards from scrimmage in his final year with the Steelers, Chicago could support the veteran with its 12th-ranked offensive line, per Football Outsiders’ Offensive Line Rankings.
While Montgomery is by no means a dud, he’s been unable to display top-tier explosiveness or a more patient approach akin to Bell. Nick Foles would have a more reliable check-down option in Bell, who was criminally underutilized in that department under Gase. If the Bears trot out a double back look with Bell and Monty in the backfield and Robinson, Graham and promising rookie Darnell Mooney running routes, maybe their offense can provide the punch they need to be a contender.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are rolling right now at 4-1, and Darrell Henderson has emerged as a breakout back. But the chance to bring in Bell, who still has the potential to be among the best do-it-all backs in the league, has to get coach Sean McVay excited. This would be a rich-get-richer situation. Henderson is averaging an excellent 4.5 yards per carry to go along with 13.1 yards per reception. Those are very good numbers, and taking nothing away from Henderson, one has to wonder what a star such as Bell could be putting up in McVay’s system. While it might seem smart to bring in Bell, it would leave second-round rookie Cam Akers without a role.
If the Rams were to sign Bell, a grouping of Henderson, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and one of Gerald Everett or Tyler Higbee out there catching passes from Goff would be hard to stop. As another plus, the Rams offensive line has bounced back from last season. They currently rank as the seventh most-efficient offensive line in the league, per Football Outsiders.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Well, this would be scary. While Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette are no slouches, neither of them are remotely close to the receiving ability and slipperiness that Bell possesses. Since the Patriots usually devalued the RB position, Brady rarely found himself playing with an all-out stud, and it’s the same case in Tampa this year. Jones has been running like a madman — averaging 4.9 yards per carry — but his receiving stats are lacking, especially considering his meager 65% catch rate. Fournette has played well thus far, but he just got injured, and while it’s not deemed to be serious, Fournette’s admirable play thus far shouldn’t handicap the Buccaneers from going after Bell.
At his peak, which is not too long ago, Bell could do everything, which is a trait Brady rarely has in his backs. Bell would fit in nicely as the Bucs' third-down back and a replacement for the aging LeSean McCoy.
Could a reunion in Pittsburgh make sense for Bell and the Steelers? While the two sides didn't exactly end their relationship on solid terms, it could be mutually beneficial for both parties.
The undefeated Steelers could use the help, too. Conner has looked a step slow this season, and the Steelers' reserve backs — Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland — haven't provided the punch Pittsburgh is looking for.
Bell wouldn't take Conners' starting job, but he could be a valuable backup who can still help in the passing game. On top of that, the Steelers were reportedly interested in re-acquiring Bell last season when he was on the trade block.
Free from Adam Gase's terrible coaching, Bell could follow the trend of other former Gase players and turn into a star once again.
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