Le'Veon Bell Adam Gase
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

With Mike Maccagnan gone and Adam Gase in charge, the Le’Veonn Bell trade rumors are born, and truthfully, it’s not crazy at all. 

Robby Sabo

An NFL team with a boatload of available cash signs a superstar running back. That very same team decides to trade him prior to an official game with his new organization.

The notion sounds downright silly. Go ahead and label it silly, if you’d like; it’s not crazy in the least.

Each of the 32 organizations is spearheaded by a specific vision. The moment Mike Maccagnan’s sudden ouster hit the papers was the very instant Adam Gase took control of the New York Jets.

Among the many reported clashes between the ousted general manager and bold new head coach is Le’Veon Bell. Many report Gase liked Bell as a player, but didn’t like the money from a salary cap perspective (I happen to agree, as Super Bowl teams are never built by paying high-priced running backs). Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News—seemingly on a tear since he made the incorrect proclamation that Maccagnan’s job was safe—now reports Gase outright “did not want Bell.”

“Gase absolutely did not want to sign Le’Veon Bell, per sources,” Mehta reported on Wednesday. “In fact, he made it clear that he didn’t want to spend a lot of money on any running back.”

The first thing to keep in mind is that all of this stuff, on some level, is nonsense. In fact, some report that Gase and Bell have been in “constant contact” since the mess began.

Everything could remain on course setting up a nice 2019 campaign for the newly-signed back.

Then, the bombshell hit the desks in the form or pure conjecture.

“If there’s a suitor, I could absolutely see the Jets trading him before the start of the season,” NFL insider John Clayton said, via Andrew Fillipponi of 93.7 The Fan.

This is not a report. I repeat, this is not a report signaling any desire to trade Bell. John Clayton is simply speculating on an opinion moving forward.

Nevertheless, it’s also critical to understand the thought of trading the back isn’t outlandish.

Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with $27 million in total guarantees. This type of deal would usually suggest no flexibility in moving the player. In this case, the opposite is true.

The Jets would be hit for $18 million this season and $3.5 million in 2020 if released pre-June 1, per Over The Cap. The scenario represents a disastrous result. If cut post-June 1, the Jets are on the books for $12 million this season.

A trade, however, looks extremely different. If traded post-June 1, the Jets aren’t hit in the negative whatsoever. There would be $2 million in dead money for all four of the seasons, yet savings of $6.9 million, $13.5 million, $11.5 million and $13 million would commence for each of the four seasons, respectively.

Strictly speaking in financial terms, there’s no real harm.

Why Trade Le'Veon Bell?

Why trade Le’Veon Bell? This remains the big question.

For starters, he’s 27 years old. Rarely do NFL running backs enjoy big-time success at such an advanced age. A look at last year’s total yards from scrimmage with age reveals interesting information.

2018 Total Yards From Scrimmage by RB (with Age):

  1. Saquon Barkley, 21
  2. Ezekiel Elliott, 23
  3. Christian McCaffrey, 22
  4. Todd Gurley, 24
  5. Alvin Kamara, 23
  6. James Conner, 23
  7. Joe Mixon, 22
  8. David Johnson, 26
  9. Melvin Gordon, 25
  10. Chris Carson, 24
  11. Phillip Lindsay, 24
  12. Adrian Peterson, 33***
  13. Kareem Hunt, 23
  14. James White, 26
  15. Tarik Cohen, 23
  16. Derrick Henry, 24
  17. Nick Chubb, 22
  18. Lamar Miller, 27***
  19. Jordan Howard, 24
  20. Tevin Coleman, 25
  21. Matt Breida, 23
  22. Kenyan Drake, 24
  23. Marlon Mack, 22
  24. Sony Michel, 23
  25. Peyton Barber, 24

An incredible nine of the top 11 are 24 years or younger. Young bucks own this big-boy position. We have to get down to the 12-spot to find the first player older than Bell.

Of course, Bell can field success at age 27, but his age-28 season in 2020, age-29 year in 2021 and, ultimately, age-30 campaign in 2021 doesn’t look promising to even the most delusionally optimistic in Jets land.

The man is also unreliable. Of a possible 96 career NFL games (six seasons), Le’Veon Bell has participated in just 62. Suspensions have ruled some of his NFL time. Just how good is he after missing an entire season? The last time we saw him in 2017, he showcased a 4.0 yards per carry, far down from his back-to-back 4.9 yards-per-carry seasons the prior two years.

If Gase is truly intent on a trade, his mindset is transparent: trade the man now before his value fully dries.

An average year from a high-priced Bell behind a well-below average offensive line would equate to lost money. This time next offseason, there would be no market for the Michigan State product. Questions surrounding what the Jets could get in return now are apparent and very real, but a market does exist. The very nature of his dominant form still exists with the mystery of his missed season remaining in the forefront.

What is a Fair Return?

Is a second-round selection enough? A second rounder to go along with the freed up cap space might be the goal while moving forward.

Any potential Bell deal is a 2020 move, one that sets Gase (and his potential partnered GM) up for the future. Maybe the Jets new final voice doesn’t believe in the offensive line Maccagnan built (or failed to build) over the course of four seasons and five drafts. Why would anybody believe in a terrible O-line whose lone acquisition is an oft-injured 30-year-old (Kelechi Osemele)? In such a case, running Bell out there behind a not-ready-for-primetime line will equal disastrous results.

In the end, reports are for the birds. Emotions are currently running high and feelings are hurt. Take all the information with a grain of salt and always dig deeper. There is no legitimate evidence the Jets head coach is actively shopping his high-priced running back.

If he chooses to travel down the road, however, “crazy” is an unfit word to describe such a bold move. Adam Gase looking to trade Le’Veon Bell makes sense not only financially, but from an overall team-building standpoint.

Robby Sabo is a co-founder, CEO and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor - Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. SEO: XL Media. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (Sold in 2020). SEO: XL Media. Email: robby.sabo[at]jetsxfactor.com