After taking a break from football for the 2018 season, Le’Veon Bell re-enters the league as a New York Jet, signing a four year, $52 million dollar deal. Although the deal comes out to less than the Pittsburg Steelers offer in 2018, Bell took the best offer the league would give him with a team in dire need of help at running back. Before the 2018 season Bell was at the top of the market, and even after the hiatus, still managed to land the second-highest RB salary in the league ($13.1 million) coming in around a million dollars shy of Todd Gurley ($14.3 million).
The Jets have struggled to find offensive momentum since their glory days with Rex Ryan as head coach and Mark Sanchez under center. Despite their desperation, they gave Bell a final offer with a midnight deadline on Tuesday after watching all other interested teams back out due to Bell’s asking price.
Many teams viewed Le’Veon as a risk, a fair evaluation considering his past injuries, suspensions, and drama, but the Jets are getting a healthy young running back who has an intense motivation to prove himself after the criticism he’s faced over the past two years. The Jets are slowly putting the pieces together on offense with a young, developing quarterback in Sam Darnold and a free agency addition of slot receiver Jameson Crowder.
The offensive collapse of the Pittsburg Steelers is opening up opportunities for teams who have been struggling at the bottom of their divisions for years. Antonio Brown appeared to be headed to the Buffalo Bills on Friday until he tweeted later that night that the trade talk was “Fake News.” Less than a day later it was announced that the Oakland Raiders were set to make Brown the leagues highest paid wide receiver. Many questioned Jon Gruden when he first came to Oakland, but going into the 2019 draft the team has two first round picks, and Antonio Brown.
The Steelers still have a high-powered offense with JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Ben Roethlisberger, but if they could only win nine games with Antonio Brown, its hard to imagine they’ll win more in 2019.
The Jets only managed to win four games last year, and being ranked near last in both offense and defense made them an unlikely choice for Bell. Thankfully for Bell, they are in a division with problems. Neither the Dolphins (7-9) not the Bills (6-10) had a winning record, and even the perpetually favored Patriots face an uncertain future the second Tom Brady retires. Le’Veon coming to New York is just the beginning of an intense rebuilding process, which will hopefully come together and pay off before the end of his four-year contract.