Le'Veon Bell's deal with Jets, Adam Gase keeps getting worseSporting News — (Vinnie Iyer)
Le'Veon Bell has not even rung in his first season with the J-e-t-s, and the situation is already a m-e-s-s.
Bell chose to sign with New York as a free agent in March because the Jets were the team that offered him the most in the form of a four-year contract worth $52.5 million with $35 million guaranteed. No other NFL team was willling to even play in the ballpark of that price.
Unfortunately, the man who gave Bell that deal, Mike Maccagnan, is no longer New York's general manager, effective Wednesday. And the man who is taking over as interim GM, coach Adam Gase, does not think Bell is worth what the Jets paid the 27-year-old running back.
According to the New York Daily News and NFL Network, Bell's contract was the big source of the rift between Gase and Maccagnan that led to their poorly timed breakup, just weeks after the 2019 NFL Draft.
Now the situation is being framed as Gase "still liking the player" despite not liking the contract. But Bell just came from a team in Pittsburgh that did not want to pay him what he thought he was worth, and the Steelers moved on by featuring a much cheaper running back in James Conner.
The Jets needed Bell to arrive hungry for a fresh start with the chance to help turn an up-and-coming offense into a winner. Now when he steps into his first round of real offseason workouts with his new team, he will be going to work for a coach who does not fully believe the RB should be there.
Gase, still touted as one of the league's smartest offensive minds at age 41, is coming off a coaching stint with the Dolphins in which he got limited returns. During his three seasons in Miami, the team finished 17th, 28th and 26th in scoring and 24th, 25th and 31st in total offense. During that same span, the Jets were 30th, 24th and 23rd in scoring and 26th, 28th, 29th in total offense.
Money was not an issue for the Jets in free agency, and they needed a complete, savvy feature back to be the centerpiece of the offense to both take pressure off and further the development of potential franchise quarterback Sam Darnold. Maccagnan was right in knowing it was time to splurge on Bell and not settle for a change of pace such as Gase's reported choice, Tevin Coleman.
Gase may think he does not need a back like Bell, but he does, which does not bode well for the prospect of the coach using the RB as much (and as well) as he should.
Further, Gase's history with lead running backs should concern Bell.
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Last season, it was clear that Kenyan Drake was the most dynamic option on the Dolphins' offense, yet Gase was fickle about Drake's workload to the point where the RB, relegated to a committe, was an afterthought in several games. In 2017, when it looked like Jay Ajayi was set to build on a big Year 2 with Gase, the coach cooled off quickly on the player. Ajayi was then traded to the Eagles at midseason.
The optimism around what Bell can bring to the Jets' offense is being replaced by questions about whether he and Gase were really meant to mesh. Bell took the money, but he might not be able to run with it as much as he wants.
Before the bitter end, there were good times for Bell with the Steelers. At least he knew where he stood both on and off the field with that organization, for better or for worse. Winning a lot of games along the way helped.
Away from Pittsburgh, it didn't take long for Bell to get a taste of full-on dysfunction.