National Football League

Low Risk, High Reward

October 16, 2020

By Martin Rogers

The Kansas City Chiefs’ signing of Le’Veon Bell is totally above board, 100 percent within the rules, fully legitimate and yet entirely capable of turning this team into the biggest cheat code of this NFL season.

For if Bell is capable of showing what we saw from him during his five years in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform, then the Chiefs might have just taken a stranglehold on the campaign and made what was already the most dynamic offense in football something truly unstoppable.

When most teams pick up a high-profile free agent with the proven capacity to be a devastating dual-threat running back with numerous 1,000-yard rushing seasons under his belt, it is an all-in gamble and a crossroads moment for the organization.

For the defending Super Bowl champions, it is a free roll of the dice, one that comes with tremendous potential upside but virtually no real risk.

"That’s the Chiefs now," FOX Sports’ Nick Wright said on First Things First. "They’re going to get the great player who has to prove himself because he wants a ring. The Chiefs transformation from the old (New England Patriots) dynasty to the new dynasty … this Le’Veon Bell addition might be the final piece of it."

The Chiefs are getting the extra glowing benefit that comes with being seen as the team of now. They weren’t the only ones interested in Bell, but it wasn’t a fair fight, either.

The Buffalo Bills could offer Bell a glimpse of a team on the rise, and the Miami Dolphins could come with warm weather and the hope that Tua Tagovailoa becomes MegaTua.

Chiefs general manager Brett Veach could say "come win a ring with us" and have every reason in the world to think that Bell would believe him. Veach has already taken chances on players with bruises on their resume, most notably LeSean McCoy, who finished last season as the team’s second-leading rusher. Bell is by far the most significant acquisition of this type.

It was just three years ago that he was one of the most valued players in football, before sitting out the 2018 season after being disgruntled at the way contract negotiations were being handled by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bell then left to join the New York Jets and things didn’t go very well there because, well, nothing has gone well for the NFL’s most cursed franchise for quite some time now. 

The Jets, doomed at 0-5, released Bell on Tuesday. Within around 48 hours he was getting a congratulatory tweet from Patrick Mahomes. Worst to first, just like that.

This is how the rich get richer. The most effective teams that sustain success in American sports capitalize on being a place that people actively want to be. They are able to use players of this kind of capacity, but to fill a specific role rather than have to do it all.

Bell’s arrival got the football world talking, but it did not even warrant a mention on the Chiefs’ own website as of Friday morning. It must be nice to have so much talent that an arriving two-time first team All-Pro doesn’t constitute news.

But Bell has spent enough time when all eyes are on him. This might be just what he needs.

"He should benefit from better opportunities than he’s had in New York," wrote Kaelen Jones in The Ringer. "Defenses won’t be able to key in on Bell in Kansas City the way they could when he was with the Jets. At least, not when Mahomes is playing quarterback and surrounded by the likes of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Mecole Hardman."

This move offers Bell the chance to reinvent himself, for what shows that you’re not "all about me" more than going to a place where you’ll be sharing a role with a rookie running back and where Mahomes is always going to be the offense’s alpha.

Having said that, things could be perfectly set up for Bell to succeed. Andy Reid is committed to establishing a running game that will decrease the pressure on Mahomes and in theory open up even more opportunities for him.

Edwards-Helaire, a first round draft pick, has done well, albeit with a few struggles near the goal line. With his receiving skills to add into the mix, it is easy to see how Bell can make an immediate impact without being asked to shoulder the entire burden.

"This is a guy that’s going to be used finally the proper way," FOX Sports’ Brandon Marshall said. "(Jets coach) Adam Gase never adjusted and never put him in the same position the Steelers put him in. There is an argument that the Chiefs may use Le’Veon better than Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers did. He has a lot to prove, this is a great fit. Mahomes can lean on him, I like this.

"Forget Le’Veon the running back, let’s think about Le’Veon the receiver. In that system with Andy Reid and Mahomes … this is dangerous."

Next up for the Chiefs is the Bills on Monday night. Bell won’t be involved in that and won’t even be able to join the team until next week, due to enhanced COVID-19 testing protocols that require six days of straight negatives.

The Chiefs are more than happy to wait. When the time is right, they’ll dial the cheat code and see if it works. If it does, everyone else is in trouble.

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