Go get him.
When the bell rings to mark the start of 2019 free agency at 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Jets should run — not walk — and go get Le’Veon Bell.
When the free agency negotiation period opens Monday, the Jets should make the former Steelers running back an offer he can’t refuse. The Jets should not run with Bell’s trademark patience behind his offensive lines, they should sprint with abandon.
They should make sure this is a one-horse race with no other team on Bell’s radar.
They should convince Bell they are the only logical destination for his services.
They should sell Bell on their up-and-coming quarterback Sam Darnold, who — with a year of experience, a star running back and the ton of salary cap money the team has to spend — can transform the Jets into winners overnight.
The Jets have been lacking a dynamic offensive skill position player for too long. This is their opportunity to land an offensive player that keeps opposing defensive coordinators up late at night trying to game plan him. Bell makes the Jets, and Darnold, better the moment he walks through the door at Florham Park.
Le'Veon Bell would be 'significant' Jets boost with one doubt: NFL analyst
Former NFL offensive lineman and SiriusXM host Ross Tucker talks…
Until the Jets right the wrong with their perennial offensive skill-position dearth, Darnold will operate with the same distinct disadvantage he did in his rookie season, when his leading receiver was Robby Anderson with 50 catches and six touchdowns and his leading rusher was Isaiah Crowell with 685 yards and six touchdowns.
Quarterbacks cannot function with that kind of lack of talent around them. Teams cannot win games in the NFL using a squirt gun.
This has been going on for too long with the Jets, who haven’t had a consistent and dependable running back since Thomas Jones had a solid three-year run from 2007-09 with consecutive 1,000-plus-yard seasons and 28 rushing touchdowns.
Really, though, you have to go back to Curtis Martin and his Hall of Fame career to find a running back that was a true difference-maker. And Martin retired after the 2005 season.
Bell represents everything Darnold needs. Not only is he a terrific runner, having amassed 5,336 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns in his five seasons, but he has 321 receptions and nine touchdowns as a receiver. In 2017, when Bell last played, he rushed for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns and added 85 receptions.
A dependable pass-catching back out the backfield is something Darnold lacked last season. It was a contributing factor to Darnold’s pedestrian 57.7 completion percentage.
The argument for the Jets signing Bell really is no argument at all.
He’s young at 27 years old. He’s fresh, having not played in 2018 when he opted to sit out the season in a contract dispute with the Steelers.
His running style, patiently waiting for blocking to set up and finding holes, makes offensive lines look better, and the Jets at the moment do not have a top-tier offensive line, which will be upgraded this offseason.
His production speaks for itself.
Breaking down the NFL's top free agents and where they may land
The gold rush to land free agents can make or…
And the Jets, with almost $100 million to spend under the salary cap, can afford him.
If they’re smart, the Jets already have drawn up a contract offer for Bell that rivals the four-year, $60 million deal with $45 million guaranteed that the Rams gave to Todd Gurley. Bell surely is trying to quickly recoup the $14.5 million he left on the table last year when he opted not to play under the franchise tag.
If you’re concerned with the fact Bell sat out last season and question his character, he doesn’t appear to be anything close to the headache his former Steelers teammate Antonio Brown does. Bell’s choice to sit out was more about standing up for what he felt was his worth and not wanting to risk injury without the security of a long-term contract. The behavior of Brown, the Steelers’ diva receiver, has looked a lot more curious, erratic and divisive in the locker room than anything Bell has done.
If you’re a Jets fan and you’re concerned about the team spending that kind of money on a running back, don’t worry, because it’s not your money, it’s the Jets’ money, and they have plenty of it to spend. They, too, have Darnold in only the second year of his rookie contract, which means they have a three-year window in which they can absorb large, salary-cap-bending contracts without messing up their financial structure.
Let’s face it: We’re going on nine years without as much as a playoff appearance for the Jets, and finally with a franchise quarterback in place and the money they have to spend right now, isn’t it time to go for it?
Going after Bell is going for it.
Go get him.