Image Credit: (Rich Barnes/USA Today Sports)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-mullick-354076184/
Welcome to another article in my writing series that I call The Stunning Cut. This is a series where I look at cuts in the preseason or in the regular season that stunned many when the news was released. For this one, I decided to do a player who was once one of the best running backs in the game and regarded as the man that would be a long-term piece of the New York Jets offense. His name is of course Le’Veon Bell. He was a tool that was expected to be utilized to help QB Sam Darnold, but it all fell apart. When the news came that the Jets released Bell, It was a complete stunner.
Who is Le’Veon Bell?
Le’Veon Bell came into the NCAA as a two-star recruit and did not have a ton of colleges that were trying to recruit him. But there was one team that saw something in him and successfully recruited him and it was Michigan State. Boy did it pay off for them as he was a fantastic talent where he just got better and better. He took his talents to the NFL in his junior year by declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft. He was drafted in the 2nd round (48th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now his tenure with the Steelers and Jets is more detailed in another article I made titled “The Rise and Fall of Le’Veon Bell’’ which is on Blitzalytics.
Bell would be a big part of the Steelers team and where he had the most success in his career. He was a part of the Killer B’s in QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown, and RB Le’Veon Bell. That offense was just excellent when they were all together and could have been a dynasty if it wasn’t for this team being a toxic and cancerous locker room. Then once Bell was tagged again is where we got into what I call “The Holdout’’. BTW that holdout took place during the 2018 Season, you know the one where this team became like a soap opera every week. It was as bad to the point where I was hoping this team did not make the playoffs and that Pittsburgh would blow it up at the end of the season. So Bell was holding out because he wanted to get a long-term contract and be paid a lot of money. Unfortunately, he did not get that and he held out. Apparently, he held out and did not sign his franchise tag. He never signed it thus forfeiting 14.5 million dollars and he never played a game. So what do the Steelers do as this news broke, well the players decided to raid Le’Veon Bell’s locker and take his stuff. They even filmed this with Bud Dupree taking his sneakers and CB Mike Hilton called it therapeutic. Which angered me because what is therapeutic about stealing Bell’s stuff and raiding his stuff? There was no chance that he was going back to that team.
So when free agency hit, Bell finally got his contract as he signed a 4-year 52.5 million dollar contract with 35 million guaranteed with the New York Jets. Bell was expected to be a big piece to help surround QB Sam Darnold with weapons. He looked rusty his first season as he finished the 2019 season with 789 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns, 66 catches, 461 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, and only fumbled once. It was looking like the Jets were going to step up and improve next season. Until then there were trade rumors that were growing more and more every week that passed at the beginning of the 2020 season….
The Day He Got Cut
Well, it looked like those rumors of the Jets, I mean Adam Gase wanting to move on from Bell were true. Why? Well in the middle of the 2020 season, THEY CUT HIM. Like seriously they decided to just let him go for nothing in the middle of the season. It was a strange time to cut a player who was surrounding then QB Sam Darnold, basically taking a weapon away from him. It is such a great idea for the so-called “offensive genius’’. The timing to me was what made this stunning as it was sooner rather than later that the Jets were going to get rid of him. Adam Gase never was a fan of this team bringing in Bell. Somehow the Jets were going to get rid of him and it makes 0 sense that they would do this in a big year of Darnold’s development. It shows how dysfunctional this team was during the Gase years and is why he is one of the worst coaches in the franchise's history.
The Aftermath of Getting Cut
Once Adam Gase, I mean the New York Jets decided to part ways with Le’Veon Bell he was now a free agent and could sign with any team. There were multiple teams he could have signed with any team and immediately become the starter. Instead, Bell decided to go the ring chaser route and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs who already had a ton of depth at the running back position and were Super Bowl contenders. Bell did not do much with the Kansas City Chiefs and was pretty much a nonfactor when it came to the playoffs. The Chiefs made it to Super Bowl 55 but lost in that game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-9.
His departure with the Chiefs was a disaster himself. Let's just say that he did not come across well when he stated that “I’ll never play for Andy Reid again… I’d retire first’’. Apparently, he stated this because he hated how he was utilized during the Super Bowl. But it is telling that many in the league including current players defended Reid over Bell. This could have easily taken him out of the league and it took a while before he joined another team.
With the Ravens last season having a ton of injuries on the team, especially at running back, the Ravens decided to give another chance and sign Le’Veon to a contract. It still is weird to see Le’Veon as a Raven, due to his many years as a Steeler. Bell just struggled to impress in Baltimore and Devante Freeman was more consistent than him. The Ravens decided to cut ties with Bells after 5 games, which is quite the fall from grace for a running back who was once easily the number one player in the position.
Luckily the Buccaneers came calling and Bell signed a deal with the Buccaneers. I would not really call this a ring-chasing signing as there was no interest from other teams to bring him in. Bell actually reunited with a former teammate in Pittsburgh who of course, is the cancer known as Antonio Brown. Bell did next to nothing in Tampa Bay and I can’t remember if he even had 10 carries with the team. He was eventually released and yet again became a free agent.
Let's be real about Le’Veon as he may be a very talented player on the field, he was his own worst enemy. No matter how talented any player is, if you don’t work well with others or are a cancer/distraction in the locker room, then no team will touch you. I feel that is the case with Bell and I don’t know the guy personally, but he did not leave on good terms with any team he was on during his prime.
Today, Le’Veon remains unsigned and to be honest I doubt he ever returns to the NFL ever again. But while his career did not end well, you can’t deny how much Le’Veon really changed the game. Not only with how some view holdouts now, but with his style of playing the running back position. I wish him nothing but the best on whatever he does post-football and I will always remember the amazing plays he made as a Steeler.