Well … it was fun to think about Le’Veon Bell running through holes created by one of the league’s highest-graded offensive lines and catching passes from Mitch Trubisky out of the backfield as soon as 2019, but Bell and the Bears simply weren’t meant to be.
The star running back and highest-profile free agent signed with the New York Jets late last night, setting the market at his position:
— NFL (@NFL) March 13, 2019
I’m back in the green baby, let’s get it
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) March 13, 2019
Le’Veon Bell’s four-year deal with the New York Jets has a max value of $61 million and includes $35 million guaranteed, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2019
Now that Bell has established a new price tag at the top of this free agent market, the rest of the backs looking for work can fall in line. But what does Bell’s signing in New York mean for the Bears, other than that he isn’t headed to Chicago or one of its rivals?
For starters, it opens up potential to pursue players on a different tier such as Mark Ingram (hello, Bears?) and Tevin Coleman. Neither is expected to reach Bell’s stratosphere when it comes to their next contract, but both own a diverse skill set that could be appealing to the Bears (as well as every other team that didn’t win the Bell sweepstakes). Should the Bears land either Coleman or Ingram, it probably will spell the end of the Jordan Howard era in Chicago. If that’s how the cookie crumbles, the Bears could certainly pivot to whichever team didn’t get Bell, Coleman, or Ingram and dangle Howard to send him to a place where he can have a soft landing.
To be clear, the Bears don’t have to sign a running back unless he provides a clear upside to what Howard brings to the table. And after Coleman and Ingram go off the board, I’m not sure that rusher will be available in this class of free agents. That would leave the Bears shifting their attention to the draft. They wasted little time in getting to know some of the Combine’s best prospects and interviewed every potential future back in the greater Indianapolis area.
The race to get Le’Veon Bell is over, but the Bears’ quest to round out their running backs room continues.