NFL: Kansas City locks up Le’Veon Bell

Just days after Bell’s release from the Jets, the Chiefs took him off the market

Connor McNeely, Staff Writer

In March of 2019, star running back Le’Veon Bell left the Steelers to sign a lucrative contract with the New York Jets, who gave him $25 million in guaranteed cash. Over his two years with the Jets, Bell failed to rush for 1,000 yards and struggled with injuries — namely one to his hamstring — which caused him to miss four games this season. Some time after his return in Week 5 against the Cardinals, the Jets released Le’veon Bell, and the Kansas City Chiefs promptly picked him up.

To many, it appears that Kansas City added yet another weapon to what is already the most formidable offense in the NFL. The Bell signing should give some energy to the Chiefs’ running back rotation, since the rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire hasn’t quite flourished since his dazzling Week 1 performance. The addition of Bell — an experienced three time pro-bowler and a two time all-pro — should make for an exciting 1-2 punch that opponents will have a hard time defending. Defensive struggles are compounded by the fact that the back have vastly different running styles.   

Bell benefitted from a patient style of running in Pittsburgh, largely made possible by the Steelers’ experienced offensive line. While this isn’t the scheme that the Chiefs are running, Bell is apt to find success on the ground in Kansas City behind another solid O-line. 

There’s no sugar-coating the fact that the Jet’s offensive line has been atrocious all season long. And, Bell was pretty much New York’s only offensive weapon. When a football team like that goes up against other competent coaches and players, running backs like Bell don’t prove dangerous because defenses load the box on every down. Trying to be patient and wait for holes to open up behind an offensive line that can’t create any in the first place proved disastrous for Bell and the Jets, prohibiting any development or adequate stat-lines for the Jet’s offense, which ranked as the worst — or close to it — by almost all measures so far in 2020.

Now that he has an offensive line in Kansas City that is among the league’s best, the tables could turn for Bell, and his production could skyrocket.

The Chiefs operate a run game that depends upon speed above all else. Their record-breaking offense has been predicated on other-worldly speed, and it’s how they won a title last season. Richard Sherman was outrun by Sammy Watkins. Tyreek Hill was faster than everyone who tried to cover him, and that’s how he got open on that famous third down. It’s clear what Kansas City needs from Bell. They need him to become the best version of himself, meaning the fastest and most athletic version of himself.

And Bell’s still got plenty in the tank. At 28 years old, Bell still has a year or two left of his prime, assuming he can rebound from the injuries that he suffered in New York. It’s safe to assume that the Chiefs will get reasonable production from him — but no one should get the idea that he’ll become the premier back of the Kansas City offense. That role belongs to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has earned that position with an excellent start to his rookie year. 

Nonetheless, the Chiefs will likely find plenty of ways to include Bell in the game-plan. As a dynamic running back, and a great receiving back, Bell has a lot of versatility. Versatility, packaged with his experience in Pittsburgh playing big games week-in and week-out could be very beneficial to the relatively young back, Edwards-Helaire.

The fantasy outlook for this signing is not immediate. If you’re thinking that Bell is going to have a breakout fantasy performance in his first week back, you’re going to be disappointed. If I had Bell on my fantasy team — which I don’t — I would wait at least a week to play him, just to get a feel for how many carries he’ll get per game. The game you will want to play him in is that against the Jets where I expect Bell to get an unusual amount of attention from the Chiefs’ offense.

Overall, this is a great signing. The Chiefs picked up Bell for only $1 million ($690 thousand of which is guaranteed). If you know Bell, you know that he’s worth much more than this, even though he’s coming back from some gruesome injuries. They say the hardest offenses to defend against are the one that has the most options, and the Chiefs have just finished building that offense. With former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes under center and standouts Edwards-Helaire and Bell in the backfield, the remaining teams on the Chiefs’ schedule will be hard pressed to find answers defensively.