Asked Monday during his season-ending news conference if he would like to have Bell back on the team next season, Gase said bluntly, “He’s under contract for three more years,” adding that reporters should ask general maanger Joe Douglas the same question on Tuesday during the GM’s presser.
The dismissive manner in which Gase addressed the question regarding arguably his most talented offensive weapon prompted Bell to respond via social media.
So begins the latest micro-drama starring Bell and Gang Green. After spending five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell signed a lucrative four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets, then led by Gase and general manager Mike Maccagnan. The deal made him the second-highest paid RB in AAV at the time ($13.1 million).
However, when Maccagnan was fired following the 2019 draft, reports emerged that Gase, who had disagreements with Maccagnan, thought the Jets overpaid for Bell. The coach denied he felt that way, saying at the time, “The contract was what it was. Everybody can criticize contracts all you want, but he’s here. I’m excited he’s here.”
In his first year in Gotham Green and under Gase, Bell enjoyed a career-worst year statistically. The two-time All-Pro back averaged 3.2 yards per carry on 245 attempts, recorded 1,250 yards from scrimmage (his lowest in a full season) and scored just four touchdowns. Though Bell was mostly durable, he did sit out one game with an illness and soon caught flak for going bowling the Saturday before missing the game.
Gase said Monday that he has already spoken with Bell regarding how to better utilize him next season, assuming there is a next season.
“We talked about look at some of the stuff they did in Pittsburgh and talking through some of the things he’s comfortable with in the run game — especially early in the offseason and trying to focus on those types of runs and pass game,” Gase said, per ESPN.
Bell said earlier this week he doesn’t expect to leave the Jets until his contract is up in 2022.
“I wouldn’t have signed here for four years,” Bell said. “I’m a guy that is extremely patient, not just on the field. I understand it takes a while to build a stable program. I’m here for it. It’s what I want to do. I’m not saying I’m ecstatic about it. I’m not saying I’m down about it. I understand it’s a process, getting things going in the right direction.”
It would be very hard for the Jets to move Bell, if that’s what their intent is this offseason. Bell is owed $13.5 million next season and the Jets would carry $17 million in dead cap if they moved on from him. It doesn’t make financial sense to move on from the back, and given the lack of depth and star power on New York’s offense, it doesn’t make football sense, either.
That won’t stop Gase from playing tough with reporters, Bell from responding in kind and this storyline from persisting all offseason.