Le’Veon Bell is no longer a Jet, but not because of a trade.
The Jets announced on Tuesday night that they have released Bell from his contract, making him a free agent. GM Joe Douglas released a statement that confirmed earlier reports that the Jets were seeking trade options over the last couple of days.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Jets had been trying to trade Bell for weeks and also at last year’s trade deadline, but found no takers. SNY's Ralph Vacchiano reported that the Jets gave Bell's agent permission to seek a trade, but teams were wary of his $8 million injury guarantee for 2021.
Bell appeared to celebrate the news on social media, tweeting a prayer emoji.
Per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, the release will not be official until Wednesday at 4 p.m., which means there is still an outside chance for a last-minute trade.
The Jets had signed Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million contract in March 2019 after the running back chose to sit out the 2018 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers because he refused to play on the franchise tag for a second consecutive season.
Bell, who has only played in two games this season as he deals with a hamstring injury, had not lived up to his All-Pro status with the Jets, rushing for 789 yards and three touchdowns while catching 66 passes for 461 yards and a touchdown last season with New York.
Bell and head coach Adam Gase also appeared to reach a breaking point with one another recent days.
Following Sunday’s loss, which dropped the Jets to 0-5, Bell declined a postgame interview and was noticeably “liking” tweets that were critical of how he was being used by the Jets. Gase voiced his frustrations with Bell doing that on Monday.
Bell had 13 carries for 60 yards but was targeted once in the passing game for a seven-yard catch. Gase said it was the way the defense was playing them that resulted in the manner.
The relationship began to boil back in training camp when Bell appeared to contradict Gase after the head coach said the running back was limited in practice while dealing with hamstring tightness, while Bell went to Twitter to say that was not the case.
There were no public disputes between the two last season, although there were certainly questions raised about Bell’s usage. Bell had repeatedly said there were no issues between him and Gase, but the relationship at least appeared to deteriorate this season, particularly over the last week.
The 28-year-old running back is owed $6 million for the remainder of the season but has no guaranteed money remaining in the final two years of his deal. The deal frees up $9.4 million for 2021.