For plenty of reasons, it makes sense for the Jets to try to trade running back Le'Veon Bell. The fact that it makes so much sense to trade him could make it even harder to do so.
The Jets surely won’t keep Bell in 2021, when he’s due to receive $11.5 million in compensation, in the form of a non-guaranteed salary of $8 million, a $3 million training-camp reporting bonus, and $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses. In lieu of cutting him later, they could trade him sooner (specifically, before the annual window closes three weeks from today), get something in return, and avoid some of the money they’ll be paying him over the balance of the year.
The next installment comes due on Thursday, when the Jets must cut a $2.5 million check, representing the balance of a guaranteed roster bonus officially earned on March 31. He also has weekly game checks in the amount of $500,000, equating to $6 million in salary. Likewise, Bell’s contract pays out a $31,250 per-game active-roster bonus.
That’s a maximum total obligation of $8.843 million over the balance of the year. To unload Bell (and to get something/anything in return), the Jets may have to pay a significant amount of the money still owed to Bell, as other teams have done in recent years to facilitate trades.
Complicating matters for the Jets is the reality that the relationship has disintegrated, assuming it ever even existed in the first place. There’s a chance it never did. Which could mean that the best bet for the Jets will be to strike the best possible deal they can, and move on.
So who would trade for him? Last year, the Jets had several suitors at the trade deadline (Bell himself identified teams like the Packers, Chiefs, Texans, and Steelers), but they wanted Bell to re-do his deal to take some of the guaranteed-money sting out of 2020. This year, there are no currently obvious candidates; however, one injury in any of the next three weeks could change that dynamic, immediately.