Will the New York Jets move on from Le’Veon Bell in 2021?

Alexander Wilson
New York Jets, LeVeon Bell
Dec 12, 2019; Baltimore, MD, USA; New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell (26) strands on the field before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets signed Le’Veon Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million deal in 2019. Bell featured on the Jets’ offense, posting 789 rushing yards and three touchdowns over 15 games. Aside from the 2015 season, this was by far his worst campaign following a contract dispute that kept him out of the league until signing with Gang Green.

Ultimately, Bell needs two specific things to succeed and play at a high-level. The first thing is a quality quarterback that can make good pre-snap adjustments and activate the screen game appropriately. Secondly, a solid offensive line at the very least is required for Bell to have the patience and aggressiveness he utilizes typically in his game.
His 461 receiving yards in 2019 with the second-lowest in his career, but I expect he will see an uptick in efficiency next season due to an improved line and Darnold’s full health.

However, the Jets drafted La’Mical Perine out of Florida and signed Frank Gore to a one year deal. This could indicate that the Jets are preparing to cut Bell after the 2020 season, as Perine is about average in every category and could take a significant step forward after a year of development.

Le’Veon has a potential out in 2021, which he would count just $4 million in dead cap, allowing the Jets to spend on other positions and replace him with the cheaper option. Clearly, having a high priced running back in the NFL is not a necessity; looking at how the Kansas City Chiefs managed to succeed and win a Super Bowl last year.

Bell can be a dominant force on the Jets’ offense, but saving about $10 million could be extremely beneficial in adding a defensive playmaker pass-rush specialist.

If Bell does have an extremely successful year, I imagine the Jets will retain him at just 29 years old. While they would be saving a good chunk of salary cap, he is a difference-maker on offense and can be the difference between winning and losing. His 2020 production is the most significant factor in this future decision for general manager Joe Douglas.