The Kansas City Chiefs have become the home for veteran players trying to find a way toward a championship in recent seasons. Darrelle Revis and Terrell Suggs joined the team’s defense for short stints, and LeSean McCoy and Le’Veon Bell signed up for the team’s offensive backfield—all in hopes of one more Super Bowl run on the professional resume.
Bell is the latest player to try to make it work with the Chiefs, and unfortunately, nothing quite worked out as planned.
At midseason, shortly after the New York Jets decided to part ways with the former All-Pro, Bell was a hot commodity who also seriously considered the Buffalo Bills (likely money and playing time) and Miami Dolphins (likely money and closer to home). However, in the end, he chose the Chiefs over other teams with dreams of a ring in mind. At first, it felt almost unfair that a team already loaded with playmakers, including a blossoming first-round rookie at the same position, could also add Bell as “yet another guy” to the mix. On the field, however, it never quite played out that way.
There were moments when Bell resembled the former Steelers great who was arguably the most effective running back in the entire NFL. Bell’s patient running style, incredible vision, agility and instincts were part of a package that regularly embarrassed opponents—Chiefs included. Despite time away from the game, and an unimpressive stint with the Jets, Bell looked like a motivated vet ready to show what he could do before hitting the open market.
Fortunately for the Chiefs, they only shelled out $1 million total for the chance taken on Bell. It helped to have the Jets on the hook for a lot more salary, obviously, but the need or opportunity just wasn’t there for Bell to add much at all this year. Even when Clyde Edwards-Helaire was sidelined in the postseason, the Chiefs went with Darrel Williams in a lead back role. It was a move that made very little sense on paper, but it’s clear that something was amiss between the coaching staff’s decisions and fan expectations.
In the end, Bell ran 63 times for 254 yards and 2 touchdowns in 9 games in Kansas City. He added another 99 receiving yards on 13 catches, which meant he averaged a whopping 39 yards/game from scrimmage.
The case for coming back
To his credit, Bell was a model citizen for his few months in Kansas City and if the Chiefs liked Bell in a sort of sidecar role on the field and a mentoring role off of it, then it might make sense to retain him for another year. He’s not going to cost too much money given his recent past and the looming salary cap adjustments, so retaining Bell likely wouldn’t cost much.
The Chiefs are bringing back Edwards-Helaire next year and then must decide on Darrel Williams, who is a restricted free agent, and Damien Williams, who will be returning after opting out for the 2020 season. If the latter Williams is cut for salary cap space, perhaps Bell is brought back as the veteran leader one more time.
The case for letting go
Le’Veon Bell’s longest run since 2016 is 27 yards and that came in 2017. Any team with a vision of the Bell of old needs to adjust their outlook because such projections make no sense given the recent body of work. That’s not to say that Bell wouldn’t emerge as more impressive than he’s looked given more reps with the right offense. After all, the last three years have been a bit odd for Bell, but it can be hard for players to adjust back to the game after missing time, and Bell hasn’t looked the same whether with a horrible team relying on him or a great team just giving him limited reps.
The likelihood of a return: 5 percent
The bottom line is that Bell was always going to be a short-term rental. The contract said so and the team’s posture toward him doesn’t seem to imply anything differently. No one has made overtures one way or the other about a reunion, and Bell is likely to still coast on his reputation enough to get some team to bite for more than the league minimum. Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton believes the Las Vegas Raiders are the next home for Bell, while Pro Football Focus guessed the Miami Dolphins. Either way, it makes sense for another team to spend and believe and for the Chiefs to move on.