The New York Jets gave all-pro running back Le’Veon Bell a lot of money last offseason. To be exact, a four-year deal worth $52.5 million with $35 million guaranteed. That’s a good deal of cash for most players, especially one that was coming off an entire year without playing a down in the NFL.
Wanting to make a splash, the front office definitely did so. Bell was one of, if not the biggest, names in free agency. However, the first year with Gang Green did not go as planned. This has led to speculation around the league that the team may part ways with Bell and has also created a connection between the Jets and David Johnson if Arizona releases him. Whether or not Bell’s on the team come next season, his presence allowed for growth for years to come.
Bell’s Presence on the New York Jets
Bell was relatively healthy in his return to the field, playing in 15 games. However, in those 15 games, he only amassed 789 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He added 461 receiving yards and another score as well. These show that he was, by far, the most talented offensive piece on the team. Yes, these numbers are far below his career averages and made people curious if the Jets made the wrong decision on him. No, they didn’t.
While it may not have shown entirely, Bell provided a great resource to Sam Darnold in year two. Having another capable receiver coming out of the backfield, even as just a check-down option on occasion, allows Darnold to be more comfortable under pressure. Knowing there’s a backup plan enables the quarterback to cut down on potentially forcing throws. This can be great for Darnold, but that isn’t why Bell was signed. He was signed because it was considered one of the best running backs in the entire league. His numbers last season didn’t support that, but he is not to blame.
The Bottom Line
There’s no way to get around it: the Jets offensive line was horrendous. The offensive line was ranked 29th in the league at the end of the season. They gave up the fourth-most sacks in the league, 52, and 106 quarterback hits, which contributed to Trevor Siemian having his season cut short. Aside from that, the contributed wholeheartedly to allowing Jets running backs to total just 1,257 yards, second-lowest in the league.
Le’Veon Bell is a patient runner; he waits for holes to open behind the line before bursting through. However, as it showed, the current line in front of him cannot give him the time he needs. Upgrades need to be made for Bell to let his talent show fully.
There are a few free agents that could be targeted, such as veterans Bryan Bulaga, Jack Conklin, and Joe Thuney, but the draft is full of linemen as well. If the team elects to pick a lineman at number 11, a sensible choice could be Andrew Thomas out of Georgia. A sleeper pick could also be Matt Peart out of UConn. Peart was the highest-graded offensive player for the North Team in this year’s Senior Bowl, according to Pro Football Focus. Regardless, he is expected to fall into the second or even third round of the draft, where he could be picked up.
Whatever direction the team decides to go, the offensive line needs to be addressed in order for Le’Veon Bell or any other running back to be successful.