The Jets are going big-game hunting again.
Gang Green has reached out to the Pittsburgh Steelers to express interest in trading for disgruntled All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, according to sources.
The Jets have not made a concrete offer for Bell yet, but they believe that the Steelers are serious about moving the dynamic offensive weapon.
Bell, who has not yet signed his $14.54 million franchise tag tender, will miss his third game of the season when the Steelers face the Buccaneers on Monday night.
Bell, the league’s best dual-threat running back for the past several years, has amassed 5,336 rushing yards, 2,660 receiving yards and 42 career touchdowns in his first five seasons. He’s looking for a multi-year deal for more than $15 million per year.
NFL rules prohibit any team trading for Bell to give him a multi-year deal until after the 2018 season, so he would, in effect, be a one-year rental. Logic, of course, would dictate that a team trading for Bell would want to have a behind-the-scenes multi-year agreement in place before pulling the trigger on a trade with Pittsburgh. The NFL trade deadline is Oct. 30.
Gang Green has the available cap space now (about $17 million) and next season (a projected $90-plus million) to land and keep Bell beyond 2018.
Would the Jets be willing to give up a premium-round pick for Bell or simply wait until he hits the open market to make their move in 2019? Is the 26-year-old difference maker with 1,541 touches at a position with a short shelf-life worth more than $15 million per year?
The Jets don’t have a 2018 second-round pick (see: trade with Colts that netted Sam Darnold), but they do have an additional third-round pick (see: Teddy Bridgewater trade with Saints). The Steelers, of course, would get a compensatory pick if Bell ultimately walks in free agency.
Bell must show up for the final seven games to get credit for this season. Otherwise, the Steelers could slap the franchise tag on Bell for $14.54 million again in 2019.
In the meantime, Bell is missing out on $855,000 for every game missed this season.
The Jets have employed a two-headed rushing attack with Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell with mixed results. Gang Green carved up the Lions on the ground in the season opener before struggling in a Week 2 loss to the Dolphins. Powell and Crowell averaged 3.6 yards per carry in a road loss to Cleveland last week.
Bell would be a true offensive game changer for Gang Green.