KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs signed Le’Veon Bell late Thursday, two days after he was released by the New York Jets, giving them some much-needed depth at running back and another weapon for quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“Kansas City, #ChiefsKingdom, thank you for the opportunity let’s go!” Bell tweeted.
Bell, a two-time All-Pro with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was cut by the Jets after a disappointing tenure in New York that lasted less than two full seasons. Bell and coach Adam Gase appeared to not mesh since the running back signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with $35 million guaranteed last year as a free agent.
He will slot into one of the NFL’s most dynamic offences behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has been one of the league’s most impressive rookies this season. But the Chiefs have little depth behind him with only Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson getting regular work — DeAndre Washington was signed in free agency but has been a protected player on the practice squad, unable to crack the game-day roster through the first five games.
The Chiefs thought they would have Damien Williams, one of the heroes of their comeback victory over San Francisco in the Super Bowl, but he opted out because of the COVID-19 pandemic before the start of the season.
Bell, who no doubt is eying the Chiefs’ game against the Jets in Week 8, has a similar skillset to Williams in his patience and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. And he has far better career credentials, topping 1,200 yards rushing and 75 receptions in a season on three different occasions.
“A tremendous player, someone that can do it all,” Mahomes said earlier in the day, when word began to spread that Bell was considering the Chiefs among a trio of teams. “Whoever is in this locker room, we make sure they’re ready to go.”
Exactly when Bell will be ready to go is unclear. The Chiefs were supposed to play in Buffalo on Thursday night, but the game was pushed back to Monday night because the Bills and Titans were not clear to play until this past Tuesday.
“Welcome my brother! Let’s get it!” Mahomes tweeted in response to Bell signing with Kansas City.
While the financial terms of the one-year deal with Kansas City were unknown, the Jets are responsible for the remaining $6 million in base pay on his salary with an offset clause the defrays the amount based on his salary with the Chiefs.
Whenever he steps onto the field, Bell should provide a spark as the Chiefs (4-1) try to rebound from their first loss. He spent his first six years in Pittsburgh, where the former Michigan State star was among the best dual-purpose running backs in the league, ranking second in yards from scrimmage with 7,996 from 2012-17.
Some of his best games actually came against the Chiefs, including a 179-yard rushing day in October 2017 and a 144-yard outing in October 2016. Bell also churned through the frigid cold for 170 yards rushing in a playoff game in January 2017 at Arrowhead Stadium, helping the Steelers to an 18-16 victory over the Chiefs.
Bell sat out the 2018 season in a contract dispute with the Steelers. He became a free agent and joined the Jets in March 2019, but he was never the dynamic presence in Gase’s offence that New York envisioned. He ran for just 789 yards and three touchdowns and wasn’t prominent in the passing game, catching 66 passes for 461 yards and a score.
Bell also missed three games this season with a hamstring injury and had just 74 yards on 19 carries before his release.
The Chiefs clearly believe Bell has more left in the tank than the last erstwhile star they signed for their backfield. LeSean McCoy appeared in 13 games last season, running 101 times for 465 yards and four scores, but his role in the offence was slowly ratcheted back as the Chiefs made a push for their first Super Bowl championship in five decades.
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Dave Skretta, The Associated Press