Many thought Le’Veon Bell was crazy for holding out and giving up millions, but he ultimately got the guarantees he was looking for.
The New York Jets have rejoined the NFL.
Sure, there were those two seasons under Rex Ryan when they went to the AFC Championship Game – and lost.
But basically, this franchise hasn’t been taken seriously for decades. That is, until Tuesday night.
That’s when they Jets got a real prize, the perfect piece for their puzzle when they signed former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million contract.
The deal includes $35 million guaranteed, with a maximum value close to $61 million, including incentives, ESPN reported.
Bell, 27, is not only a star, but exactly what the Jets needed to go with their franchise quarterback Sam Darnold.
That’s now two years in a row that the Jets have taken the right steps to get this team into both playoff contention and a shot at the long term goal – their first Super Bowl win since 1969.
Last year, the Jets made a trade to move up and get their man Darnold in the draft. Instead of hoping and wishing he would be around when they picked, they were aggressive and got a much-needed QB of the future.
Here, they also went and got Bell, offered enough money to get a game-changer in the fold for once in free agency.
Some reports said that several teams were in the hunt for Bell, including the San Francisco 49ers. It’s reported that they made a strong offer and were involved in a heated tug-of-war until the Jets won out.
Many thought Bell was crazy for holding out last season and not taking the Steelers offer. It was a low guarantee money offer in which Bell would have gotten just $17 million. The Jets offer is filled with $35 million guaranteed.
Sometimes you have to fight for yourself and your value. The Steelers are famous for front-loading contracts. Look at Antonio Brown who forced a trade to Oakland. The star receiver had no guaranteed money left on his contract in Pittsburgh.
Bell was smart not to let the Steelers overwork him, burn him out and then not pay for his services.
It’s a short shelf life for running backs in the NFL. An injury can end it all in an instant. Bell bet on himself and won. He saved his health and finally got the security and deal he was looking for.
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill free agent signing. Bell is a mover and shaker. He makes teams sit up and take notice because he’s on the roster.
The Jets added a potential Hall of Fame back to their roster. It’s something they haven’t had since Curtis Martin was a big free agent signing back in 1998. He played for the Jets until 2005 en route to making it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bell, a three-time Pro Bowler, is on that level, has that kind of skill set.
The Jets needed help on the ground. They haven’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since 2015.
Last season, the Jets had just two 100-yard rushing days. That will change in a hurry. It just might be the norm with Bell in the backfield.
Bell upgrades the offense immediately, which finished 29th in total yards and 26th in rushing yards. Hence, the Jets finished a woeful 4-12 last season.
The Jets’ record will improve with the addition of Bell as will Darnold’s play. Believe it.
From Day 1, Bell will make Darnold better. Bell can not only run the ball, but catch it out of the backfield. Bell is a real threat, a Godsend for Darnold who enters his second season in NYC. Teams won’t be able to focus on Darnold. They will have to respect Bell and the running game, too.
Bell – who had over 2,000 total yards in 2017 – is a star all the way. His average of 128.9 total yards from game from 2013-2017 is the highest for an NFL running back over the first five years of a career since 1970 when the NFL-AFL merged.
During those five seasons, Bell rushed for 5,336 yards and 35 TDs and caught 312 passes for 2,660 yards and seven more touchdowns.
Darnold has a real weapon that will enhance his career tenfold.
And so do the Jets. Without question, they are back on the NFL map.