What a baffling move by the Jets front office. Just one day after trading prized defensive tackle Leonard Williams to the Giants, there have been rumors that the Le’Veon Bell experiment is over in Gang Green. Without further ado, here are the top 5 trade destinations for the All-Pro running back.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are a cornerback away from winning the conference. However, spending picks on an elite running back talent like Le’Veon Bell could add a lot more potential to the Eagles’ offense, and more importantly, take pressure as well as defenders off tight end Zach Ertz, who is by far the staple of the Eagles’ passing game. When a defense can commit to the Eagles’ run game on early downs and cover Ertz on passing downs (Cowboys on Sunday Night), they can neutralize Philly’s offense.
Bell’s reputation as a mismatch nightmare will not only alleviate pressure off of Ertz, but also increase the percentage of screen passes and option routes to the Eagles’ playbook. Rookie Miles Sanders has quite a ways to go before becoming a viable starter in this league, and getting Bell at a cheap value definitely increases the firepower of this offense.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As if Bruce Arians didn’t need another running back reminiscent of 2016 David Johnson, here we are. Johnson racked up more than 2,000 scrimmage yards in his best season, with a lot of volume in the receiving and the rushing game. Bell’s elite talent can make up for Tampa’s awful offensive line, and the presence of a run game in Tampa Bay can help Arians control the time of possession battle, keeping one of the league’s worst secondaries off the field.
The development of slot receiver Chris Godwin has been a godsend for the Buccaneers offense this year. With All-Pro receiver Mike Evans as a current 2nd option in the Bucs passing game, Bell can also present another target for turnover-prone quarterback Jameis Winston. Bell’s presence in the run game and the pass game also allows for easier and quicker throws, complementing the Bucs’ aggressive vertical passing game with a risk-free underneath screen game.
3. Los Angeles Rams
This sounds crazy for sure. However, the Rams have salary cap issues to go along with a lack of high-value draft assets the next few years, after the trade for All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey. With former NFL Offensive Player Of The Year Todd Gurley diagnosed with arthritis, the first 8 games have made it quite evident that LA downplayed the effect of the disease on this Rams team.
Gurley also comes with a massive contract, and the Rams can choose to either release or trade him at the deadline if they trade for Bell. Because Bell’s contract is a lot cheaper than Gurley’s, the Rams have a little more cap space to sign impeding free agents Dante Fowler Jr along with the aforementioned Ramsey.
While this trade does not make sense at first glance, the NFL has seen the potential of currently “underperforming” quarterback Jared Goff with a competent running game. Gurley’s arthritis along with significant regression from the Rams’ offensive line has transformed the former offensive juggernaut into a one-dimensional passing game, which in turn forces a lot more mistakes from an aggressive quarterback like Goff. Bell rejuvenates what seems like a dead rushing attack for the Rams, and gives McVay an explosive weapon who can take significant volume in this runningback-centered offense (Shanahan System).
4. New England Patriots
Another Steeler to follow the saying “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” (just kidding, Antonio Brown. We’ll always remember your one-week stay). This trade destination would be a test to see how badly the Jets want to get rid of Bell. If they really do want to blow everything up and begin a rebuild on offense, this trade doesn’t seem like the worst idea.
Are they trading Bell to a division rival? Absolutely. Are the Jets going to contend anytime soon? No. The running back position is the epitome of the term “replaceable”, and the Jets are really testing out that theory here. If they do intend on trading away their 2 of their 3 best players, then it’s safe to assume that Joe Douglas wants to rebuild the offensive and defensive lines.
For a struggling Patriots offense (although masked well by this vaunted Patriots defense), Bell would be nothing short of a godsend. He would instantly receive about 25-30 touches from scrimmage, and control the time of possession battle for the Patriots, who, unlike the Buccaneers, have a fantastic offensive line. Bell’s patient running style would also limit the amount of 3rd and longs this passing game faces, with efficient runs on early downs. The best way to keep an elite defense fresh is to run the ball, and before his time with the Jets, there was no back better than Bell.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Let’s just add another explosive weapon to the best offense in the league, shall we? If Patrick Mahomes returns to the Chiefs’ lineup this week, easing him back in will be much easier when their best back isn’t Mr. Fumblitis (sorry, Shady).
An underrated aspect of Bell’s game besides his patient running style is the way he sets up his blocks. The Chiefs’ offensive line is very injured at the moment, and Bell’s patience could allow the offensive line to take a bit more time when setting those blocks. The acquisition of Bell could add the run game back to the Chiefs’ playbook, transforming the run game into one better than 2018’s, with former rushing leader Kareem Hunt.
Much like the Rams, the Chiefs don’t have to play one-dimensional offense either. While Mahomes can carry the Chiefs offense much better than Goff can carry the Rams, acquiring a top-3 running back for cheap assets is never a bad idea, especially when every advantage is needed to compete with the Patriots.
Bell is also a much more polished route-runner than Hunt was, giving Mahomes viable hot routes as well as option routes in man coverage while matched up against linebackers (mismatch, no surprise). In 2019, versatility within the running back position is everything, and because the Chiefs need every advantage they can get to defeat the Patriots’ defense, this move may be well worth it.