The Jets have landed the biggest fish in free agency.
Gang Green agreed to a four-year, $52.5 million deal with superstar running back Le'Veon Bell just after midnight Wednesday, according to sources. The pact includes $35 million in guarantees.
"I'm back in green baby," Bell tweeted, referencing his days in Michigan State green. "Let's get it."
There's no reason to sugarcoat it: This was a coup for Christopher Johnson, Mike Maccagnan and Adam Gase, who got one of the game's biggest difference makers at a fair cost.
In fact, some might say that Gang Green got a relative bargain for a player looking for much more loot after sitting out the entire 2018 season in Pittsburgh after refusing to play on the $14.5 million franchise tag.
The Daily News first reported Tuesday that Gang Green made a best and final offer, before making it clear they would give Bell a short time to mull it over before they moved on to Plan B. (The Jets had been used as nothing more than leverage by free agents in the recent past.)
Bell's market wasn't nearly as robust as he had hoped in the run-up to free agency. He turned down a five-year, $70 million deal for the Steelers after the 2017 season because he deemed it a lack of sufficient true guaranteed money.
Regardless, the Jets just got a dynamic weapon for Sam Darnold, who could take his game to the next level with a game changer like Bell in the backfield.
Bell's arrival should electroshock an offense that languished near the bottom of most statistical categories last season. The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro is far more than just a running back. His pass-catching skills are reminiscent of a receiver. Gase should be able to deploy him in myriad ways to maximize his skillset.
"When he steps foot in this building, you're going to get 100 percent from the guy," free-agent defensive lineman Steve McLendon told the Daily News about his former Steelers teammate in December. "If anybody gets them on their team, they're going to get a hell of a player. Just know that he's going to bring the best out of so many people. Just imagine: He'd be the Jamal Adams on offense. Loud. Energetic. Confident… And he's going to make plays."
Adams left no secret this offseason that he was recruiting Bell to join the Jets, repeatedly sending public messages on social media and even sitting down with Bell's agent and his own agent for an informal pow-wow at the Pro Bowl.
Bell is a game-wrecker in every imaginable way. He's the first player in league history with 4,000 rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards in his first 50 games. His patient running style has turned him into arguably the best player at his position.
"I thought he was a great teammate," left tackle Kelvin Beachum, who spent three seasons with Bell in Pittsburgh, told the News in December. "He came to work. He did support his guys both in the locker room and outside the locker room. I have the utmost respect for him. He's a great phenomenal worker and brings people along with him."
"I think he has a desire to prove people wrong that say that he took this year off and then he's going to shut it down (after getting paid)," Beachum added. "I think he has even more of a chip on his shoulder to actually go and do something… He's already done something that (few) have ever done. Now to come back to do something that's never been done: take a year off and really have that super type of year. That's the type of mindset that he has… instead of, 'Well, I got my money, so I'm going to shut it down.'"
There were fair concerns on One Jets Drive about the 27-year-old Bell's wear and tear (1,635 career touches in 66 games), two league suspensions and motivation to play after landing a big payday, but team brass ultimately concluded that the benefits outweighed the risks.
So they wisely took an aggressive – but not reckless – approach to signing him.
The Jets have a three-year window to beef up Darnold's supporting cast before they ultimately will have to fork over monster money for the quarterback. So, the time was right to go for a player like Bell, who should have three years of quality play left in him barring injury.
"I expect him to come back and light this league up," McLendon said. "Whoever has him on their team will have not only a great guy, but a great player. Like a future Hall of Famer. He's that type of guy. I'm not just talking. I've seen how much work he puts in. I've seen a lot to know that he's one of those guys that got it. At the end of the day, whoever has him on their team next year, they're going to get a baaad man."