The Jets need to stay away from Le’Veon Bell … for now.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the Steelers are listening to trade offers for their talented but unhappy running back.
It is not hard to see how the Jets are going to wind up in the conversation as a possible destination for Bell.
The Jets are one of eight teams that have the salary-cap space to take on Bell’s $11.9 million salary right now, according to overthecap.com. The Jets’ offense looked as explosive as a wet firecracker on Thursday night in Cleveland.
Add in the fact that Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan makes calls on any and every possibility, and the Jets are surely going to get linked to Bell if the trade possibility does heat up over the next month before the Oct. 30 trade deadline.
But the Jets should take a pass on trading for Bell. They should wait until he hits free agency in March and then make a push to sign him.
Trading for him makes little sense because he can be nothing more than a rental at the moment. Because the Steelers used the franchise tag on him for this season, he cannot sign a contract extension until March 2019. This makes it a different (and more difficult) trade than the Bears’ deal for Khalil Mack earlier this month. In that deal, the Bears not only sent the Raiders draft picks, they also worked out a long-term deal with Mack before the trade was done, ensuring he would be on their team for a long time.
Any team that is dealing for Bell is going to have to send the Steelers draft compensation and then cross their fingers that they can re-sign him next year. Now, there could be a wink-wink deal between the team and Bell’s agent, but that scares me. With his failure to show up for the Steelers’ first three games, Bell has shown he is concerned with one thing: the payday that awaits him in 2019. Let’s say you do make a backdoor deal with Bell, but another team comes along on the eve of free agency and offers more money. You think he’s going to stick with your team out of loyalty?
The other aspect of this trade that would scare me is Bell’s reasoning for not playing for the Steelers right now. His agent said earlier this month that they are concerned about him getting overworked before he hits free agency. How does that change if he goes to a new team? Wouldn’t he still be worried about hurting his payday?
Bell would come with other questions, too. What kind of shape is he in? Can you just insert him into your offense in the middle of the season? In the Jets’ case, would he want to join a team that is clearly still rebuilding?
The Jets obviously could use a talent like Bell. Their priority in the next few years has to be surrounding Sam Darnold with talent. Bell might be the best all-around running back in the NFL.
The Jets can live with Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell for now, though. Those two are not the problem with the Jets’ offense.
Next year is a different story. The Jets are going to have close to $100 million in salary-cap space to spend, more than any other team in the NFL. Bell is worth investing some of that in. He is expected to fetch around $15 million per year. Some will say that is too much to invest in a running back, but I think Bell is worth it if the Jets can do a contract with the guaranteed money coming mostly in the first 2-3 years.
There will be temptation for the Jets to make a move on Bell now. The smarter move would be to wait until March and then go after him.
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