As always, the Eagles fan base is discussing the possibility of bringing in a recently released Pro Bowl player. This time around, it’s former All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, who was just released by the New York Jets on Tuesday.
It was initially reported that the Jets were going to try and trade the disgruntled back. But rather than wait for possible suitors, the Jets cut their ties, ate $15 million in dead money, and cut the 28-year-old running back.
Bell was once an undisputed top-3 running back in the league. During his five year stint in Pittsburgh, Bell made the Pro Bowl three times and earned first team All-Pro honors twice. In each of his Pro Bowl seasons, Bell had at least 1,200 rushing yards, 70 receptions and 9 total touchdowns. He was the best all-purpose back in the league. There were a few seasons where Bell was the sole weapon on Pittsburgh’s offense, and he was still able to produce at an unprecedented clip.
Obviously, this kind of production didn’t translate once he got to New York. Head coach Adam Gase never seemed to use Bell in any kind of effective way, and the stats reflect that. Bell finished his 17-game Jets career with: 863 rushing yards (3.9 average), 3 rushing touchdowns, 69 receptions, 500 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown.
Bell certainly has short-term value for any team in need of a little extra offensive juice. He won’t be expensive at all, the Jets still have to pay Bell $6 million in offset money.
So should Howie Roseman make a call to his agent?
The Eagles were trying to sign a veteran back the entire offseason. They were in the market for Carlos Hyde before he went to Seattle, and they had a scheduled visit with Devonta Freeman before he joined the Giants. The Eagles were reportedly interested in signing Bell during his first venture into free agency in 2019, too.
The need for a solid back behind Miles Sanders has been evident through five games this season. Boston Scott and Corey Clement haven’t provided much production at all backing up Sanders. Scott averages 3.3 yards per carry this season, and Clement averages just 2.7. Neither of them contributed in the first game of the season when Sanders was sidelined either.
Back up running back is far from this team’s most pressing need right now, but bringing in a guy like Bell does present potential for Doug Pederson’s offense. Pederson could get really creative with how he uses Bell. He was used as a receiver quite a bit during his Steelers tenure, lining up at wideout or in the slot 12% of his snaps.
But there are also reservations about bringing in Bell. He’ll be 29 in February, so he probably won’t be here past this season. Sanders is only getting 15.5 carries per game, with his total touches going down with each week. Do we really want to split Sanders’ already small workload? I think most fans would argue Sanders needs to be more involved. Signing Bell would only take touches away from him.
We should also ask ourselves, would Bell even want to sign with the Eagles? Sure, they’re favorites to win the NFC East, but we all know that’s more so because of the division itself, not because the Eagles have played well. Does signing Bell really move the needle that much and make this team a true contender? Once some of the skill position players get healthy again, maybe. But Bell may want to join a sure-fire Super Bowl contender, and it’s pretty clear the Eagles aren’t close to that.
We haven’t seen Howie make a splash move during the season in a few years now. Given the current state of the team, signing a guy who doesn’t have much long-term value probably isn’t the smartest move. It obviously wouldn’t hurt to have another weapon here, but who knows how much Bell truly has left in the tank.
I’d be pretty surprised if the Eagles ended up signing Bell when it’s all said and done.