With reports that Jets coach and interim G.M. Adam Gase didn’t want Le'Veon Bell (overstated) and/or that Gase thinks the Jets paid too much for Bell (correctly stated), chatter has emerged that the Jets could trade Bell.
If Gase is inclined to do it, now’s the time given his current power and control over the team. And John Clayton, formerly of ESPN and now a radio host in Seattle, recently said just enough on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh to get people thinking that a trade could happen: “If there’s a suitor, I could absolutely see the Jets trading him before the start of the season.”
It’s more likely that the Jets will have a suitor than that the Jets would trade him, however, because Bell already has earned $12 million via signing and roster bonuses. A new team could get him for five years, $40.5 million. That’s the ballpark that likely would have gotten the 49ers to bite in March, but now that the 49ers have signed Tevin Coleman (and already have Jerick McKinnon entering the season year of his own big-money, free-agency deal) they’d likely be interested only if they have (another) rash of ACL tears.
It’s unclear whether anyone else would want to acquire Bell’s deal and also give the Jets something for him. An injury to a starter in the last year or two of his contract could be the only thing that triggers serious interest.
Still, the Jets would have to be willing to eat $12 million in exchange for Bell playing a grand total of zero games (which is even nuttier than giving a coach full control of a team after having coached a grand total of zero games). That would serve only to add perception of dysfunction atop perception of dysfunction and reinforce the “what the hell are they doing?” vibe that has gripped much of their fan base and the media.
Another possibility, as floated by Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, would be a one-and-done arrangement for Bell, with a trade coming in 2020. A new team would be getting a four-year, $38.5 million contract, with $13 million fully guaranteed for 2020. But here’s the thing: If Bell has the kind of back-to-the-future year that would inspire someone to take on a $13 million obligation for 2020 at a position where plenty of young, relatively dirt-cheap options are annually available via the draft and/or undrafted free agency, that would be the kind of year that would validate the trade and make the Jets far more inclined to keep him.
At this point, the best play for the Jets would be to embrace the presence of Bell (when he’s actually, you know, present) and work toward proving that Bell was worth it. And Gase would never be happier to be proven wrong.