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Free Agency

New York Jets: Signing Le’Veon Bell was a must for Mike Maccagnan

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 10: Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against Michael Pierce #97 of the Baltimore Ravens in the second half during the game at Heinz Field on December 10, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 10: Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against Michael Pierce #97 of the Baltimore Ravens in the second half during the game at Heinz Field on December 10, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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Early Wednesday morning, the Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes came to an end, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the former Pittsburgh Steelers star running back had agreed to a four-year $52.5 million deal with the New York Jets.

This past November, I wrote that the New York Jets had to do whatever it took to sign Le’Veon Bell once free agency began and the reasoning for that was simple.

Last year at this time, the focus for the green and white was on acquiring a franchise quarterback. Despite an up-and-down rookie season, the organization believes it has found just that in Sam Darnold, who was drafted with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

With that being said, the focus this offseason then shifted to surrounding Darnold with as much talent as possible. And not only did Bell represent the most dynamic weapon on the market, but he represents one of the most versatile and valuable weapons in the league.

Earlier this week, the Jets began to improve the roster, trading for former Oakland Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele and signing former Washington Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder. Then late Monday, the team reportedly agreed to terms with linebacker Anthony Barr, a versatile and athletic player who was immediately expected to provide a spark for the Jets defense.

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As I wrote, the Jets were successful early on in the week in addressing team needs and improving the roster. That pattern continued early Tuesday morning when the team agreed to terms on a blockbuster deal with star linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Things then began to sour, however. First, Barr changed his mind and elected to re-sign with the Minnesota Vikings. Then, the Jets missed out on former Denver Broncos center Matt Paradis, who could’ve added much-needed stability to the offensive line.

For those reasons, adding Bell was a must.

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A dual-threat running back, the 27-year-old Bell, who played his collegiate ball at Michigan State, remains in the prime of his career despite sitting out for the duration of the 2018 season due to contract disputes with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And as far as talent goes, Bell’s is undeniable as he’s a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All-Pro selection. Effective in both the rushing and passing games, he is the first player in league history to total 4,000 rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards through his first 50 games.

In 2017, the year Bell last laced up his cleats, he totaled 1,291 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 321 attempts. In addition, he totaled 85 receptions for 655 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, he totaled 160 receptions over his final two seasons in Pittsburgh.

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And yes, signing Bell does indeed bring some risk. Mainly, the Jets had to spend big to sign him, though some would argue that the team orchestrated a brilliant deal, especially given the fact that the Jets made their offer, set a deadline, and stuck to their guns.

Regardless, there are concerns over the fact that he hasn’t played in well over a year. He’s also had some injury issues and has been suspended multiple times in relation to substance abuse issues. In addition, some have concerns over the wear and tear on his body as he’s already totaled over 1,500 touches throughout his career.

But, the reality of the situation is this: there are few players in the league who are as dynamic as Bell and who can do what he can do. Simply put, he’ll immediately elevate the Jets offense, which was downright brutal in 2018, in a multitude of ways. He’ll open up the playbook and make life easier for those around him while bringing a level of talent that the unit hasn’t seen in years, which is critical to Darnold’s progression.

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Ultimately, when a player of Bell’s caliber hits the open market, a team like the Jets, who are in desperate need of offensive help and who had the money to spend, must do what it takes to acquire him. And on Wednesday, the team closed the deal and completed its biggest signing in years.

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