Le'Veon Bell Rumors: Latest on RB's Suitors After Joining Jets

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2019

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14:  Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field on January 14, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A plethora of exciting moves were made on Tuesday, both involving pending free agents and trade acquisitions. Surprisingly, none of those moves involved former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell—that is, until just after midnight.

Not long after Bell dropped his mixtape, news broke that he finally had his new team.

According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, he has agreed to a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the New York Jets:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

For the #Jets and RB Le’Veon Bell, it’s a 4-year deal worth $52.5M, source said.

Bell was supposed to be the crown jewel of free agency in 2019. He's a two-time All-Pro who amassed 1,946 combined rushing and receiving yards plus 11 touchdowns in 2017—the last season he started. He's just 27 years old and should be well-rested after spending a year away from football.

However, things didn't quite work out that way. Yes, Bell eventually got a deal close to the four-year, $57.5 million extension Todd Gurley signed last offseason. However, the market wasn't quite as robust as some might have expected.

According to NFL Media's Dianna Russini, most general managers believed Bell's offers were in the $11-12 million-per-year range before he signed with New York.

Evan Silva @evansilva

ESPN's Dianna Russini said on NFL Live that "most GMs" around NFL believe offers to free agent Le'Veon Bell are "coming in around $11-12 million" per year, and that's obviously well short of what Bell wants.

The Jets, of course, always appeared to be Bell's best hope of getting a lucrative deal. They were armed with plenty of cap space, and they were able to up their offer after losing out on linebacker Anthony Barr, who re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

With Anthony Barr spurning the #Jets, they have some extra money. I’m told they’ve taken some of that money and made a last and final big offer to Le’Veon Bell. It’s decision time for the ex-#Steelers RB.

The Jets made Bell a final offer with a deadline, because they weren't interested in being used to get Bell a better deal with a different team.

Connor Hughes @Connor_J_Hughes

Talked about this on @SNYtv regarding the #Jets giving Le’Veon Bell a deadline: #NYJ were burned by Kirk Cousins … Dont’a Hightower … Anthony Barr. All players who used them as a means to increase their offer from another team .. then sign They don’t want to be played again

Michael Silver @MikeSilver

As I just reported on @nflnetwork ... the @nyjets are getting antsy, and their offer to Le'Veon Bell likely won't last past tonight. If he's going to sign there it probably will have to happen very soon.

Here's the big question, though: What other teams were actually interested in giving Bell a lucrative offer?

Rapoport reported that the Baltimore Ravens were still in the Bell sweepstakes in the end, but that has been heavily disputed.

Jason La Canfora has reported that the Ravens weren't interested in Bell:

Jason La Canfora @JasonLaCanfora

I continue to be told the Ravens are not in on Le'Veon Bell.

Albert Breer of the MMQB, meanwhile, reported that the Ravens weren't interested in Bell, and neither were the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills or Houston Texans:

Albert Breer @AlbertBreer

Among that haven't really been in it for ex-Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell: Bears, Colts, Ravens, Texans and Bills. Market's tough. Only takes one, and as the price drops teams may re-enter. Right now, feeling is you might be able to get him at $11-12 million per.

So why were the Ravens dangled as a possibility?

As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com explained, they could have been used to drive up the Jets' offer—precisely the same thing New York was worried about:

"At a time when some reports indicate that the free-agent running back will choose between the Jets and the Ravens, a league source tells PFT that there have been no negotiations between the Ravens and agent Adisa Bakari. At all. The thinking is that someone is trying to push the Ravens as a potential destination for Bell in order to get the only remaining candidate—the Jets—to pay more."

The reality is that the Jets may have been the only team serious about adding Bell at or around his asking price. However, this doesn't mean they were the only ones interested.

According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen (h/t Rotoworld's Evan Silva), other teams were "waiting to pounce" if the price for Bell came down.

Ultimately, Bell is now a Jet, and the NFL got what it was hoping for when it first implemented the "legal tampering" period—excitement and suspense leading up to the start of free agency.