In 2018, he sat out the entire season willingly in a contract dispute. In 2019, his last real season with any considerable body of work, he averaged 3.2 yards per carry. In the two seasons since, he’s rushed for less than 500 total yards between three franchises. It feels safe to ask at this point: is Le’Veon Bell finished in the National Football League?
It wasn’t so long ago that there was at least some excitement that came with the addition of Bell. Just last season, the Chiefs added Bell as a midseason signing after he was cut loose by the New York Jets following a disastrous run. He’d signed a big-money deal with New York only to fail to move the needle offensively for a team that lacked talent at every level. With the Jets, it was uncertain whether or not anything was Bell’s fault.
Moving forward, the Chiefs signed him to partner with rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire atop the depth chart. However, Bell never really found his footing (or the coaches’ trust, perhaps?) in Andy Reid‘s offense. Thus, even when Edwards-Helaire was injured at the most critical point of the year in the postseason, the team was rolling with Darrel Williams as the featured back while Bell either garnered few carries or sat out as a healthy scratch entirely among the list of inactive players.
Has Le’Veon Bell played his final snaps in the National Football League after being released by the Baltimore Ravens?
This season, teams were slow to give Bell any real attention in free agency. When the Baltimore Ravens came calling, it was due to the fact that they’d already lost multiple running backs to season-ending injuries. First, it was J.K. Dobbins and then Justice Hill and then Gus Edwards—all out for the entire year due to devastating injuries within hours of each other. From there the team signed Latavius Murray and Bell to go with Ty’Son Williams and Devonta Freeman.
Even among other fringe players and older vets, Bell still couldn’t carve out a solid role for himself. He had only 31 carries in 5 games for 83 yards and a single catch for negative-1 yards. Yes, that’s a minus sign. It’s a small sample size, but Bell averaged a scant 2.6 yards per touch in 2021. That’s miserable. It’s also the reason why the Ravens have released him.
At this point, which team is going to sign Bell? And how does he remotely stand out from other free agents like Todd Gurley or Kerryon Johnson? The answer is likely, “He doesn’t.” Which represents a steep fall from grace for Bell.
While every player hits a wall, Bell was arguably the best running back in football as recently as 2017 and he turned out big money to sit out for a year. Ever since his return, he’s never looked the same, with that same patient running style suddenly not nearly as effective. He could blame Adam Gase or a poor line in New York. He could blame the fit in Kansas City. But on a run-first team in Baltimore that was desperate for someone to step up, the Ravens found answers elsewhere with RB4 and RB5.
While Bell will likely try to draw further interest and latch on with another team, it seems a safer bet at this stage that Bell is done in the National Football League. While this is no surprise given his recent track record, it’s notable because it’s only natural to wonder what might have been if he’d never taken that single season off. Would he have hit the wall before now? Did that rest actually help or hurt him?
Either way, Bell’s playing days, at least in the National Football League, are likely over. If he can’t make it in 2021 in Baltimore, then it’s hard to imagine another scenario in which Bell makes sense as a positive asset.