Going after Le'Veon Bell makes just enough sense now originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
On Tuesday night, esteemed colleague and fellow podcast host (subscribe and review!) JJ Stankevitz made a clear-eyed, well-crafted argument that the Bears shouldn't trade for disgruntled New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell. It made sense for lots of reasons, all of which were hard to disagree with. Then shortly after he slammed that publish button, the content gods came down from their temple atop Google Analytics and cursed him with a sick joke: there would be no Bell trade on Tuesday – the Jets just flat out released him.
Obviously things are different now. Exactly how different is harder to say, but it doesn't take a genius – look who you're talking with – to point out the differences between rolling the dice on a trade and rolling them on a free agent. But it's exactly that reason why it makes just enough sense for the Bears to give Bell a shot.
It's by no means the only issue, but the major concern with moving for Bell was always financial. If the Bears had traded for him, they would have assumed the $6.3 million he was owed in 2020. It would have been a healthy chunk of change for the Bears to swallow in the face of, you know, other offensive players who may or may not be watching the team's spending habits closely right now. It also would have been a healthy chunk of change for the Bears to swallow for a running back who's maybe not good anymore, and maybe isn't a perfect fit within the offense, and maybe wouldn't be thrilled taking a back seat to David Montgomery. However you want to slice it, a trade wasn't happening.
But now Bell's services don't cost six million dollars. The amount of teams rumored to be interested may drive his price up higher than the league's veteran minimum, but either way, it won't be a number the Bears can't compete with. There's plenty of potential in the running back room right now, but it's not deep or talented enough to let the right veteran addition pass them by. It's fair to wonder if Lamar Miller's impending shot with the Bears may block Bell's, but if the ultimate hope here is that Ryan Pace catches lightning in a bottle and Matt Nagy gets one of them to return to recent season's form, their ceilings aren't particularly close.
And hey, did you know that Miller is actually 10 months older than Bell? And has played in 26 more games? And that they're both still in their 20s?! It's not a perfect comparison, as he (in?)famously sat out all of 2018, but the idea that Bell's got way less tread left on the tires doesn't entirely hold up.
As for your concerns about Nagy underusing Bell, yeah, I dunno. You're probably right. Go ahead and tweet it. But if Nagy's only going to give running backs 25 snaps, wouldn't you rather have Bell getting 40% of those, as opposed to Cordarrelle Patterson, Ryan Nall, or Artavis Pierce? Before both their seasons ended in Atlanta, Mitch Trubisky and Tarik Cohen combined for 37% of the rushes against Detroit and 28% against New York. Those rushes are up for grabs, and even if Bell's usage stays that low (which it wouldn't), doesn't he offer more potential in that role than relying singularly on Montgomery, or turning Patterson into even more of a traditional running back?
At first glance, there are a lot of reasons why it feels like the Bears won't sign Bell, which ultimately is fine – his addition probably won't make or break a season at this point. But there's a fit there, and enough of one to make it feel like maybe they should.