The Jets have reached out to the Steelers regarding the availability of Le’Veon Bell, a league source confirmed.
The Steelers reportedly are willing to trade their disgruntled star running back because he has not shown up for work. Pittsburgh slapped the franchise tag on Bell for the second straight year, but he has yet to sign it. Bell missed his third straight game Monday night when Pittsburgh played at Tampa Bay.
The New York Daily News first reported that the Jets contacted the Steelers.
Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan is just doing his due diligence by making a call and seeing how serious the Steelers are about moving Bell and what they may be seeking for one of the best dual-threat backs in the league.
The Jets have the assets and salary-cap room to be in play on many stars. They were involved in talks for premier pass rusher Khalil Mack, whom the Raiders traded to the Bears just before the season.
But any team that trades for Bell is doing so at its own risk. Bell, who will be a free agent in 2019, can’t sign a multiyear deal until after the season. He’s said to be looking for more than $15 million per year and reportedly rejected a five-year, $70-million offer from the Steelers.
Bell’s franchise tag was for $14.5 million. He’s forfeiting more than $850,000 for every week he misses.
The Jets have the salary room to absorb Bell’s contract — they’re roughly $11.9 million under the cap — and the money to pay him next season. They currently are projected to have about $90 million to spend in free agency.
It might make more sense for the Jets to wait it out rather than give up high-round draft picks for a potential rental.
The Jets have their own first-round pick and two third-rounders in next year’s draft, one of which they acquired from New Orleans in the Teddy Bridgewater trade. Their priorities this offseason will be an edge rusher, more skill players and weapons to put around quarterback Sam Darnold, and an upgrade of the offensive line.
The Jets signed running back Isaiah Crowell in the offseason and he has been sharing the backfield with the longest-tenured Jet, Bilal Powell. Crowell has rushed for 171 yards and four touchdowns in three games. Powell has run for 139 yards and has a receiving touchdown.
Neither is in Bell’s class. He’s had three seasons of at least 1,200 yards rushing, 75 receptions and nine touchdowns.