The Jets are still very much in play for Le’Veon Bell, but now New York needs to be concerned with the Bears’ interest in the star running back.
The list of NFL teams interested in signing Le’Veon Bell continues to get longer. The introduction of the Chicago Bears into the race to sign the former Pro Bowler gives competitors a team to really be concerned about.
According to FanSided NFL Senior Editor Matt Verderame, the Jets are still very much in the mix to sign Bell, but the Bears also have “significant interest.” On the surface, the Bears seem to be well stocked at the running back position with the tandem of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. However, there have been rumblings out of Chicago that Howard’s been on the trade block for weeks. Presumably, their interest in Bell would coincide with jettisoning Howard.
Howard isn’t a bad running back, but he’s not a good fit for the offense the team runs under head coach Matt Nagy. Bell, in sharp contrast, is tailor-made for what Nagy wants from his running backs. His ability to threaten defenses in the passing game would be a huge boost for Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago offense.
Currently, the Bears have just under $20 million in cap space to work with. Signing Bell would likely eat up the vast majority of their space. One thing to remember is that Chicago doesn’t currently have a first or second round selection in this year’s draft. As such, they don’t need to reserve much salary for rookies they plan to add in April.
The Jets might be able to outbid the Bears in terms of dollars, but Chicago has the advantage if Bell wants to take winning into consideration. Nagy’s team was last year’s surprise winner of the AFC North with a final record of 12-4. It’s conceivable that the Bears could become legitimate Super Bowl contenders this offseason with a few shrewd free agency moves.
Adding Bell to the offense is just the sort of big swing that could turn the Bears from a nice playoff team to an AFC favorite. He could do for the Bears offense exactly what Khalil Mack did to the team’s defense last season. Bell is an established star who can take the pressure off the younger players on the roster.
Nothing between the Bears and Bell is imminent at the moment, but things move quickly at the start of free agency. Look for Chicago to be a real factor in the race to sign Bell until the talented back makes his final decision.