How far are the New York Jets willing to go for free-agent running back Le’Veon Bell?
Since the former Pittsburgh Steeler shunned his team over contract negotiations, forcing him to sit out the entire 2018 season, the Jets have been continuously linked with the three-time Pro Bowler.
Bell is one of the top dual-threat running backs in the league when healthy, or satisfied with his contract enough to stay on the field. He’s accrued at least 1,800 all-purpose yards in three of the past four seasons he’s played, including a 2017 campaign that featured 406 total touches.
His availability suddenly presents the Jets with a golden opportunity to attain an All-Pro talent to pair up with developing second-year quarterback Sam Darnold, who many believe will become the face of the franchise.
It’s going to come at a price though, as Bell is looking for a contract that pays him around $17 million annually and he seems pretty set on the price. The Steelers offered $14.5 million AAV, which prompted the year-long holdout and impending arrival on the unrestricted free-agent market.
It hasn’t stopped star safety Jamal Adams to start his recruitment of Bell, who can officially sign with a team starting on Mar. 14. The 2019 Pro Bowl co-MVP told WFAN’s Brian Costello on Wednesday that he had lunch with Bell’s agent over the All-Star weekend, meaning the Jets’ recruitment of Bell has officially begun.
The Jets certainly won’t have a problem meeting Bell’s contract demands. Per Over The Cap, their expected $93.8 million in free cap space is only second to the Indianapolis Colts in the entire league.
However, they aren’t willing to sign him at all costs.
According to the Daily News’ Manish Mehta, the Jets “will not break the bank” on Bell this offseason. He goes on to reveal that there is “a level of concern” about how motivated the 26-year-old will be once he gets his big contract.
That’s purely speculation, though his unwillingness to suit up for the Steelers in 2018 was bound to leave a sour taste in the mouth of a few executives around the league. Even if Bell was protecting his future.