The New York Jets released running back Le'Veon Bell Tuesday night. Yes, the same man they made the second-highest paid running back in NFL history back in 2019 has now been released after a disappointing 19 months with the team. This was another in a string of massive organizational failures by the Jets.
After an underwhelming first season in New York in 2019, the team had been trying to trade Bell for a while but found no takers on the open market.
That makes sense because Bell's four-year, $52.5 million contract ($35 million guaranteed) was a mess from the start. After sitting out the 2018 season waiting for a new contract from the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Jets signed Bell as a free agent in March of 2019. Since then, the 28-year-old has looked nothing like the guy who was a three-time All-Pro in Pittsburgh.
As I pointed out earlier:
In 2019, Bell rushed for 789 yards on 245 carries, averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry. He only scored three touchdowns on the ground, adding one receiving score as well. In two games this season he's tallied 74 yards on 19 carries (3.9 yards per carry) and no touchdowns. He's been an average back at best and a complete bust at worst.
There's a rule in the NFL: don't invest big money in running backs because it rarely works out. Of course the Jets fell into that trap because, well, they're the Jets and that's what they do.
Over the past few years Gang Green has a history of investing in the wrong players. Their recent drafts have been largely terrible and they've handed out a series of really bad contracts. A washed Darrelle Revis got five years and $70 million in 2015 and looked awful at corner. They handed Trumaine Johnson a five-year, $72.5 million deal in 2018 and the defensive back wound up getting benched and released in 2020. Soon after inking Bell in 2019, the Jets gave C.J. Mosley a five-year, $85 million deal. He played injured for most of 2019 and opted out of the 2020 season. Who knows if he'll ever live up to that deal.
The Jets also selected Sam Darnold with the third pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and failed to surround him with talent. Instead of investing in offensive linemen or reliable wide receivers during free agency in 2019, they dumped a ton of money in Bell, a running back who hadn't played a snap in more than a year. The team's moves make absolutely no sense.
Bell's release leaves behind $15 million in dead cap money in 2020 and another $4 million in 2021. They paid him $28 million for 18 games. The deal will go down as one of the worst in NFL history.