The New York Jets have been the favorites to land Le’Veon Bell since the end of the season and he would be a huge help to an offense desperately looking for playmakers. However, if Bell doesn’t sign with Gang Green, the Jets can still find great value in free agency and the NFL Draft.
It’s not every year that such a transcendent talent becomes available like running back Le’Veon Bell, but it is true this year. Bell is a top priority on a number of teams’ free agency big boards including the New York Jets and there is a very good reason or reasons why.
Bell sat out the entire 2018 season due to a contract dispute, but before that in the 2016 and 2017 season, rushed for a combined 2,559 yards and 16 touchdowns. Bell is one of the best backs catching the ball out of the backfield as well, as he totaled 1,271 receiving yards and four touchdowns in the 2016 and 2017 season.
On top of that, according to Pro Football Focus, Bell has the second-best rushing grade (85.8), most total yards after contact (2,713), and most runs for a first down/touchdown (271) our of all running backs since 2014.
However, Bell does come with some major concerns. In five seasons, he has only played all 16 games once and has been suspended twice for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Also, Bell’s social media habits have been known to raise a few eyebrows in the league.
Bell is a high risk but high reward player who, when he is healthy and in the right mindset, can be the best running back in the game. He won’t come cheap either as he is looking to get $15 million plus per year in his next contract.
Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has a lot to think about before he offers a contract to Bell when free agency begins. Maccagnan won’t show it, but he is a desperate man looking to save his job because if the Jets don’t improve in 2019, Maccagnan will be fired.
But what happens if the Jets aren’t able to sign Bell? What’s their backup plan? Where would they turn to then?
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There are a few quality alternatives on the open market this year, but the top two are Tevin Coleman and Mark Ingram. Coleman has never been the feature back for a team because during his time with the Atlanta Falcons, he split time with Devonta Freeman.
Teams might prefer Coleman over Bell because he is two years younger (25 as compared to 27) and he has more tread left on his tires than Bell does. Last season, Coleman had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns.
For Ingram however, he is older than both Bell and Coleman (will be 30 by the end of the 2019 season). Ingram had his best season with the New Orleans Saints in 2017, rushing for 1,124 yards for 12 touchdowns and adding 416 yards receiving.
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The 2011 first-round pick was suspended for the first four games of last season due to PED’s and struggled to keep up with second-year phenom Alvin Kamara. Although Ingram has shown he can be a reliable back, he is pushing 30 and the Jets are trying to get younger on offense.
If Maccagnan isn’t happy with Coleman or Ingram, this year’s draft offers plenty of running backs with the skill sets to become elite NFL players. Alabama running back Josh Jacobs is considered by many analysts to be the best running back out of this class. Expect Maccagnan to keep a close eye on running backs during the draft because he typically prefers to build a team through the draft instead of free agency.
At the end of the day though, Le’Veon Bell is one of the top three running backs in the game and he is the Jets top target. Bell offers high risk, high reward but Maccagnan might just have to take the risk to save his job.
The chase for Bell will be a wild one come March 13th, let’s just hope the Jets can get to him first.