This doesn't seem to be a point of contention, as Bell likely informed the Jets of his plan when he signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract last month. He's always preferred to work out on his own during the offseason -- something that may have played a role in his inability to secure a long-term contract with Pittsburgh. In any case, the 27-year-old has plenty of time to get in shape and learn coach Adam Gase's playbook before rejoining his teammates for OTAs in May or mandatory minicamp in June. Gase said he'll be cautious about overworking his star runner, but it will be tough to take Bell off the field for more than a breather when the backfield alternatives are Ty Montgomery, Elijah McGuire, Trenton Cannon and De'Angelo Henderson.
Coach Adam Gase said the Jets will cater the offense around Bell in 2019, Randy Lange of the team's official site reports. "We'll easily be able to adapt to what Le'Veon does in the run game," Gase mentioned. "It's just going to take more of the chemistry part of line, him, quarterback, receivers, tight ends, everybody just getting used to playing with each other. And the run schemes that he's really good at, we'd be fools to not to do those."
After holding out last season, Bell finally wrested himself free of the Steelers, and despite missing out on the $14.5 franchise tender, he netted a four-year, $52.5 million contract from the Jets during the legal tampering period in mid-March. He immediately becomes the focus of the entire Jets offense behind signal-caller Sam Darnold, who showed promise in 13 starts as a rookie. Bell himself is just 27 years old, but he also had the most touches (1,252) and snaps (2,932) among running backs between 2014 and 2018. Gase addressed the high usage, saying, "We'll keep an eye on that." During the aforementioned stretch, Bell averaged 409 touches for 2,200 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns per 16 games, so there's little doubt he'll be among the first handful of players selected during draft season.
Bell agreed to a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets on Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.
Earlier Tuesday the Jets gave Bell a deadline to decide if he would sign with them, and Bell finally came to terms with $13.125 million per year. Bell held out the entire 2018 season despite having a $14.54 million tender on the table, but this deal gives the versatile back more long-term security even though it's at a lower annual rate. Bell averaged 141.8 scrimmage yards per game over his last two campaigns, but he hasn't played an NFL snap since the 2017 season. He'll be the clear-cut No. 1 running back for the Jets, and his receiving abilities -- and mere presence -- will boost Sam Darnold's value moving forward.
Connor Hughes of The Athletic reports the Jets have given Bell a deadline to decide if he will sign with them.
Matt Schneidman of The San Jose Mercury News reports the Raiders are still alive in the bidding, while Ian Rapoport of NFL Network suggests the Ravens have emerged as the favorites to sign Mark Ingram. The Jets presumably intend to revoke their contract offer and shift the focus to other running backs if Bell doesn't make a decision before the unspecified deadline.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday that the team wouldn't use the transition tag on Bell, who thus becomes a free agent March 13 at the beginning of the new league year, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Despite rumors to the contrary, it never made much sense for Pittsburgh to use the tag, as doing so would have left the team at risk of losing Bell without any compensation. The 27-year-old will now be part of the compensatory draft pick formula for 2020, likely bring the Steelers a selection at the end of the third or fourth round. Even after sitting out the entire 2018 season, Bell should have his own price range among the free-agent class of running backs. Mark Ingram, Tevin Coleman, Jay Ajayi (knee), Latavius Murray, C.J. Anderson and Adrian Peterson are the other big names available.
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