Mon, Dec 9, 2019

It turns out, the Jets did more than just listen to trade offers for Le’Veon Bell before the trade deadline. According to Bell himself, the Jets were actually “close” to shipping him off to another team. 

We already knew the Jets entertained the idea of trading him. Now, we know just how close he was to being traded only half a season into his four-year contract.

“Honestly, it was close,” Bell told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio on Tuesday. “I mean, obviously, it was at the time just hearing everything out and seeing how it plays out. Obviously, I didn’t want to get traded but if it did happen I was ready and I would do what I had to do but, yeah, I just understand from the Jets perspective if they were to trade me and they got some value out of it, I understand where they’re coming from.”

However, despite the trade discussions — which came five months after it was revealed that Adam Gase didn’t even want to sign Bell in the first place — Bell maintained that there’s no hard feelings between the team and player, which should come as no surprise given how his final couple years in Pittsburgh unfolded. He, of all players, should understand the business aspect of the sport. 

“It’s a business — strictly business — and I understand that whole business-decision thing, so I didn’t take too much offense to it,” he said. “I just kept my head down and once the trade deadline went by I was ready to put my head down and get back to work.”

Bell also seemingly confirmed what we already guessed: His contract was a hindrance to trade negotiations. In March, after Bell held out for an entire season instead of playing under the franchise tag, Bell finally hit unrestricted free agency and wound up signing a four-year, $52.5 million deal with a Jets team that behaved as big-time buyers in free agency. It sounds like Bell wasn’t willing to rework his deal in order to facilitate a move, which again, is understandable. Bell is under no obligation to take less money. After holding out for a year because he wanted a lucrative long-term deal and then finally getting that deal from the Jets, restructuring his contract after nine games would’ve made no sense whatsoever. It’s not Bell’s fault if the Jets regret the deal and want to get out of it already. It’s the Jets’ fault for giving a running back a monster contract in free agency.

“That was definitely a huge part,” Bell said. “I understand how things work and everything, but the fact that I had actually sat out a whole year to kind of get to where I wanted to get to today, I definitely couldn’t like retract on it. I’m still trying to set myself up and my family up down the line so I’ll make sure that everything tries to stay intact we both would have, myself and whatever team got me, would have both became winners, not just them.”

It’s been a slog for Bell so far this season. He’s averaging only 80.6 yards from scrimmage per game and 3.9 yards per touch after averaging 129 yards from scrimmage per game and 5.2 yards per touch with the Steelers from 2013-17. But Bell is hardly to blame for his woes. He was forced to operate with Luke Falk for a chunk of games. He’s been running behind the league’s second worst run-blocking offensive line by Football Outsiders’ metrics. And he’s stuck in an Adam Gase offense. Gase hasn’t coached a top-20 offense in terms of yards since Peyton Manning was his quarterback in Denver. The situation in New York is clearly hindering Bell.

Despite being 2-7, the Jets are still talking about the playoffs after scoring a win over the Giants on Sunday. After Sam Darnold said the Jets have a chance to make a run at the postseason, Bell told “Fantasy Football Today” on CBS Sports HQ that he’s as optimistic as his quarterback when it comes to the Jets’ playoff chances.

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