It’s now known that running back Le'Veon Bell won’t play this year. It’s not known where he will play next year.
Unless, of course, Bell already knows where he will play next year.
It would be naive, to say the least, to assume that Bell and his agent haven’t engaged in off-the-record, hypothetical discussions about the money that would be available to Bell on the open market in March. Before refusing to walk through Door No. 1, Bell needed to know what is lurking behind Door No. 2.
It’s called “gauging the market.” Technically, it’s tampering. As a practical matter, it’s a key component of the services that agents provide to their clients. The best agents have relationships founded on trust with executives throughout the league, allowing those communications to happen without fear that the executive will be burned, or that the hypothetical numbers won’t ultimately become concrete offers.
Some believe the Jets will be at the front of the line for Bell. In recent comments, G.M. Mike Maccagnan made it clear that his team will be using plenty of cash and cap space next year on free agents.
“This is an offseason we feel really good about,” Maccagnan said. “We’ve done a lot of work already and we’re going to do a lot more work [in] free agency. . . . Right now, we think there are a lot of good, young players in the [free agent] market potentially for next year. And we feel pretty well situated with our salary cap standpoint.
Bell is 26. He will have avoided a full season of wear and tear. He will be healthy and ready to go. He will be motivated to prove his critics wrong. He will be paid a ton of money by someone.
Indeed, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News already has made the argument that the Jets should pursue Bell. There’s a decent chance he’s doing that because he’s already caught wind that the Jets plan to do just that.
There’s a decent chance Bell has caught wind of that, too.