Le’Veon Bell got his wish.
Two days after Bell indicated on Twitter that he wanted to be gone from the team, the Jets accommodated the running back. The Jets announced Tuesday night that they released Bell after attempting to trade him.
The release ends a rocky 19-month marriage between the two sides.
“After having conversations with Le’Veon and his agent and exploring potential trade options over the past couple of days, we have made the decision to release Le’Veon,” Jets GM Joe Douglas said in a statement. “The Jets organization appreciates Le’Veon’s efforts during his time here and we know he worked hard to make significant contributions to the team. We believe this decision is in the best interests of both parties and wish him future success.”
Bell, 28, has been a disappointment since signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets in March 2019. He rushed for 863 yards and three touchdowns in 17 games, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. He also has 69 catches for 500 yards and one touchdown.
Bell tweeted an emoji of hands together in prayer, meaning thank you.
“got a lot to prove,” Bell later tweeted. “i’m ready to go.”
The final straw came when Bell took to Twitter after Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals and liked several tweets criticizing how coach Adam Gase utilized him. He liked one tweet that said the Jets should trade him.
That was just the latest dustup between Bell and Gase. The partnership felt doomed from the start. Former GM Mike Maccagnan signed Bell over objections from Gase, who preferred to invest the money in other positions. Those objections became public after Maccagnan was fired in May 2019 and the disagreement over Bell was reported as one of the reasons for the rift between Gase and Maccagnan. Both Gase and Bell repeatedly said there were no issues between them, but brushfires repeatedly came up.
Bell was unhappy after Sunday’s game when he had 13 carries for 60 yards but only one catch. It was his first game after missing three with a hamstring injury. He refused to speak to reporters after the game on a Zoom call and then had his Twitter tantrum. Gase said he understood Bell’s frustration, but wished he had come to him instead of turning to social media to express it.
This came after a similar training camp kerfuffle between the two after Bell was pulled by the trainers from a scrimmage and Gase told reporters it was because his hamstrings were tight. Bell went on Twitter and said his hamstrings were fine. The two had a meeting after to talk through things, but it was just another indication of the lack of trust between the two.
Bell was owed about $6 million in salary for the remainder of this season, plus some bonus money, making him hard to trade. The Jets did not owe him any guaranteed money beyond this year, so the expectation was he would be cut after the season. Instead, the Jets moved on early. He leaves behind a $15 million salary-cap charge this year and another $4 million in 2021.
With Bell gone, the Jets now can give more carries to rookie La’Mical Perine, who did not play any offensive snaps on Sunday. It will be Perine and veteran Frank Gore carrying the load for the winless Jets now.
This move is the latest moment in a tumultuous season for the Jets. It began in the spring with the contract drama between the team and star safety Jamal Adams. That ended with the Jets trading Adams to Seattle just before training camp in exchange for a package that include two first-round picks.
A week later, linebacker C.J. Mosley, the highest-paid player on the team, opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns.
The Jets have lost their first five games and Gase is on the hot seat. Quarterback Sam Darnold did not play particularly well and then injured his shoulder two weeks ago against the Broncos and missed Sunday’s game.
Now, Bell, the most accomplished player on the team, is gone.
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