Le'Veon Bell, Jets Officially Agree to Reported 4-Year, $52.5 Million Contract

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 13, 2019

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14:  Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball during the second half of the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Heinz Field on January 14, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jaguars defeat Pittsburgh 45-42.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Free-agent running back Le'Veon Bell, who played five seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers before sitting out the 2018 campaign because of a contract dispute with the team, officially signed with the New York Jets on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Bell will sign a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets. Schefter noted the deal could be worth up to $61 million, with $35 million guaranteed.

Bell gained 7,996 yards from scrimmage and scored 42 touchdowns in five years despite missing 18 games because of injuries or suspension.

A three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, Bell's patient running style suited him well behind a stout offensive line that ranked top eight or better in run blocking from 2014 to 2017, per Football Outsiders' adjusted line yards metric.

He, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wideout Antonio Brown formed the Killer B's in Pittsburgh and led an offense that finished top 10 in scoring from 2014 to 2017. Pittsburgh made the playoffs all four seasons, with the apex being an AFC Championship Game appearance in the 2016 season.

The Steelers could not come to a long-term agreement with Bell, however.

The 2013 second-round pick out of Michigan State played under the franchise tag in 2017. Bell did not put pen to paper for a second franchise tag in 2018 and sat out the whole season in hopes of a trade or a more suitable long-term deal.

In Bell's absence, James Conner took over the backfield and dominated to the tune of 1,470 scrimmage yards and 13 touchdowns in 13 games.

The writing was on the wall before Bell's tenure ended, but now he gets a fresh start again in New York, where he'll be the lead bell cow once again.

Bell will replace a rotating group of Jets running backs from last season. Isaiah Crowell led the way with 685 yards, with Bilal Powell providing a change of pace before suffering a neck injury that ended his season after seven games.

The 30-year-old Powell is now a free agent, but the team also has third-year pro Elijah McGuire back in the mix. He rushed for only 3.0 yards per carry last year, but he caught 19 passes for 193 yards.

Crowell is still under contract with the Jets for two more years, as is McGuire. But with Bell in town, they're mostly insurance in case he can't play.

Bell should help second-year quarterback Sam Darnold as a safety valve out of the backfield.

The former USC signal-caller's transition to the NFL hasn't been easy. His first head coach (Todd Bowles) and offensive coordinator (Jeremy Bates) were fired after a 4-12 season. He now needs to acclimate to a new system with former Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase calling the shots.

Having a versatile talent like Bell can only help Darnold as the Jets look to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season.

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