Trading for Le’Veon Bell would help the Jets win a few more games in 2018, but that’s not going to change the franchise’s long-term outlook.
On one hand, you have to applaud the New York Jets for their desire to bring a big name star to the Big Apple. That’s the only rational explanation for the team’s interest in swinging a deal for Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. The Pro Bowl running back would certainly help the Jets be more competitive this season, but they are more than a player or two away from Super Bowl contention.
Sources emanating from New York insist the Jets haven’t made a firm offer for Bell yet, but team officials are convinced the Steelers are seriously interested in moving him. For those of you who have been living in a cave, Bell is currently holding out due to the Steelers’ unwillingness to give him the long-term contract extension he believes he deserves.
It’s widely assumed the Steelers will want something more than the compensatory pick they will receive if Bell leaves via free agency this summer. Complicating matters for the Jets is the fact that they’re already out their second-round pick in 2019 due to the Sam Darnold trade. A third-round pick might be enough to tempt the Steelers to make a deal, but a first-round pick would be too much for the Jets to give up.
If the Jets do swing a deal for Bell, they have the cap space to sign him to a long-term deal as a condition to the transaction. Handing big money to Bell might look good for the next season or two, but he’s a running back with a lot of miles on his body. Any long-term deal for Bell would likely look pretty bad in the latter years of the contract.
The smart thing for the Jets to do is to stay patient and engage in their rebuild slowly. Making the bold move to acquire Darnold in April was a wide deviation from the plan. Changing plans is worth it to get a potential franchise quarterback on a rookie contract. Giving up extra assets for a veteran running back is a good way to lock your team in mediocrity.
The only legitimate football argument for trading for Bell is to help Darnold play in a more dynamic offense. The Jets aren’t entirely devoid of weapons at the moment, but they could use a game changer to take some heat off their rookie quarterback. There’s some definite appeal there, but it’s not worth sacrificing valuable draft capital.
In the end, only teams that are a player away from a Super Bowl run should be interesting in swinging a deal for Bell. The Jets have some interesting pieces, but they need several more offseasons to upgrade their roster to the point that they’re in that conversation. Trading for Bell would help the Jets sell some tickets and generate some headlines, but it would make it harder for their front office to build a real contender around Darnold.