Jets release disgruntled running back Bell

  • Longtime Jets beat writer for New York Daily News
  • Syracuse University graduate

The New York Jets’ rocky relationship with Le’Veon Bell came to abrupt end Tuesday night when the Jets announced they released the running back.

It ended a 19-month relationship that was filled with disappointment and broken promises. Bell, who arrived as a marquee free agent in 2019, never clicked with coach Adam Gase, who opposed the signing from the outset.

The Jets had been trying to trade Bell since the start of the season, a source said. Then he pulled a hamstring in Week 1, and they had to put that on hold. In the end, they chose to release him.

“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,” the team 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 this team. We believe this decision is in the best interests of both parties and wish him future success.”

Bell tweeted a praying hands emoji after the announcement.

The breaking point was Sunday, when Bell was upset with his role in the Jets’ 30-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Afterward, he declined media interview requests, but took to Twitter and “liked” comments from media members that suggested he was being misused and should be traded.

That upset Gase, who told reporters Monday, “I hate that that’s the route we go with all this instead of just talking about it, but it seems that’s the way guys want to do it nowadays.”

Bell has been a disappointment since signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract last year, as he has averaged only 3.3 yards per carry with the Jets — 51st out of 53 qualifying runners in the NFL over that span.

In 17 games with the Jets, Bell rushed for only 873 yards and three touchdowns. He was hurt by mediocre line play and a system that didn’t cater to his strengths as a versatile player.

Bell was signed by former general manager Mike Maccagnan, who wanted to add a weapon to help the development of quarterback Sam Darnold. As it turned out, Maccagnan was fired two months after the signing. Darnold has regressed and the Jets are 0-5, with the NFL’s lowest-scoring offense.

This was the second time in four months that a high-profile player wanted out. In July, All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and the team were involved in a contract dispute. They eventually traded him to the Seattle Seahawks. Adams was critical of Gase’s leadership on the way out.

Ironically, Bell was critical of Adams for bailing out on the Jets, as he attacked Adams on social media.

Bell expressed frustration at various points last season, but he re-focused in the offseason and came to training camp in the best shape of his career, he said. He dropped more than 20 pounds from last season. Admitting he was complacent in 2019, Bell vowed to deliver a career year.

Gase muddied the situation by signing one of his favorite players, Frank Gore, which may have further alienated Bell. Sure enough, there was a disagreement in training camp, when Gase removed Bell from an intrasquad scrimmage. Gase said Bell had reported a tight hamstring, and he didn’t want to risk an injury.

Bell went on Twitter and basically called Gase a liar, prompting a long sitdown between the two.

Bell returned to the lineup Sunday and carried the ball only 13 times for 60 yards. He was targeted only once in the passing game. On numerous occasions, Gase talked about getting Bell more involved as a receiver.

Curiously, rooking running back La’Mical Perine saw no action, which raised eyebrows. Bell’s departure should create playing time for Perine, who will share the workload with the 37-year-old Gore.

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