It ended a 19-month tenure 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.”
As a vested veteran, Bell is not subject to waivers. He will be a free agent at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Bell shared his thoughts on Twitter shortly after the announcement, saying that he has something to prove.
got a lot to prove. i’m ready to go. pic.twitter.com/oDqBM62JfN
— Le’Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) October 14, 2020
The breaking point came 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 he 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 he signed 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 in that span.
In 17 games with the Jets, Bell rushed for 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 of New York. In July, All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and the team were involved in a contract dispute. The Jets eventually traded Adams to the Seattle Seahawks. Adams was critical of Gase’s leadership on the way out.
At the time, Bell was critical of Adams for bailing on the Jets, and he attacked Adams on social media.
Bell expressed frustration at various points last season, but he refocused in the offseason and came to training camp in the best shape of his career, he said. He dropped more than 20 pounds since last season. Admitting that 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 might have further alienated Bell. Sure enough, there was a disagreement in training camp after Gase removed Bell from an intrasquad scrimmage. Gase said Bell 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 sit-down between the two.
Bell returned to the lineup Sunday and carried the ball 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.
On Sunday, rookie running back La’Mical Perine saw no action. Bell’s departure should create playing time for Perine, who will share the workload with the 37-year-old Gore.