Le’Veon Bell was largely a bust as a big-ticket free-agent signing by the New York Jets last season. Can he turn things around this year? Here are Bell’s odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season as well as his over/under yardage total.
Bell was a 2013 second-round pick out of Michigan State by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He quickly became one of the best all-around backs in the NFL. In 2017, he had a league-high 321 carries for 1,291 yards, as well as 85 catches for 655 yards, and made the third Pro Bowl of his career.
However, the Bell refused to sign the franchise tag placed upon him by Pittsburgh, resulting in him sitting out the entire 2018 season. Just before the franchise tag deadline, the Steelers offered what seemed to be a very attractive deal: five years, $70 million but Bell turned it down. He would lose out on $14 million in salary by sitting out the 2018 campaign.
The Jets then signed him before last season to a four-year, $52 million deal that included $25 million guaranteed. That means Bell makes less per year ($13.125 million) than he was slated to make under the franchise tag in 2018 and well below the offers that the Steelers put in front of him previously.
Bell was not worth that big contract last season while playing through injury and 2020 could be his last year with the Jets. Overall, in the 2019 season, Bell recorded 789 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns to go along with 66 receptions for 461 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown.
The three-time Pro Bowler was deployed in the wrong way en route to a career-low 3.2 yards per carry. Coach Adam Gase, who didn’t want to sign the game-changing running back in the first place, never figured out how to best use one of the game’s most dynamic dual-threat weapons. The Jets were hoping to move Bell, who averaged a career-low 16.3 carries per game, before the trade deadline. However, his exorbitant contract made a trade impossible.
There was constant speculation that Bell had a rocky relationship with his head coach. In fact, part of the reason why then general manager Mike Maccagnan was let go by the Jets was due to his signing of Bell, which Gase reportedly was not in on board with.
The running game can only improve after last season’s disastrous performance, where the Jets ranked among the bottom three teams in numerous run game metrics. The additions of Mekhi Becton, guard Greg Van Roten, center Connor McGovern and tackle George Fant among others should create more yards before contact for Bell. In addition, he has been working out like crazy this offseason.
“Everybody talked about the offensive line and everybody talked about me not getting the ball, but, damn, Le’Veon, were you at your best?” Bell said. “I can literally look at myself in the eye and say, ‘No. No, I wasn’t.’”
If quarterback Sam Darnold can take the next step in his development, then the whole offense, including Bell, can and will benefit.
“He’s still a young player so he’s got a lot to learn. But I think this second year in this offense is really going to help him. This is his third year total in the NFL and he’s already had two different coaches. Rookie year, he comes in, different coach. Second year, he has to learn a whole new offense,” Bell said.
Bell is determined to rectify his numbers and even outperform his production with the Steelers.
“I’ll be so much better, I didn’t give nearly enough… I PROMISE YOU, long as I’m healthy, this will be the best year of my career… & it won’t even be close,” Bell said on Instagram.
The Jets are 5.5-point underdogs for Week 1 in Buffalo.