FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets have managed only 56 points in the past five games. In The Year of Scoring, they're not. They will have no 1,000-yard rusher and no 1,000-yard receiver for the third straight year. You might as well call it a "no-ffense."
This isn't just a recent thing. The most recent Jets player to be named All-Pro at a skill position was running back Curtis Martin in 2004, the year he led the NFL in rushing. Sam Darnold was a 7-year-old beach boy at the time.
In three months, the Jets will have the opportunity to acquire a true difference-maker in his prime -- running back Le'Veon Bell, who almost certainly will be a free agent. They're expected to make a strong play for Bell, and there are some within the league who believe Bell-to-the-Jets will happen.
There are many layers to this decision -- mainly money, durability and character -- but the ultimate criterion should be this: The Jets need more talent in the building and Bell is a premier talent, a rarity on the free-agent market.
It's not an ideal position to be desperate, but this is what happens when a team blows a lot of draft picks. So what are they supposed to do? There are no Saquon Barkley-like talents in the upcoming draft, so they can overpay for a multi-dimensional weapon with baggage or sit on the sideline and hope to get lucky in the later rounds of the draft.
In this case, you pay.
You pay and hope Bell can rebound from his one-year holdout and be the player he was from 2013 to 2017, when he produced nearly 8,000 yards from scrimmage and 42 touchdowns for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
You hope to improve the offensive line, so Bell's hunt-and-slash running style can work as well as it did in Pittsburgh.
You hope he doesn't lose his hunger after being rewarded with a mega-contract that took extreme measures to secure.
You hope he still has enough tread on his tires to produce at least two elite seasons, because that's what you will be expecting for at least $40 million in guarantees, the likely sticker price.
If everything clicks, the Jets will have a running mate for Darnold and a legitimate star on offense. Currently, no player on offense has a single Pro Bowl appearance on his resume.
"Given the Jets' situation, they have to sign him," a longtime personnel executive said. "[They] have to create a positive vibe and Bell fits the bill. Is it the right move? For them, I'd say yes. Their talent is depleted and they have to help the quarterback. They have to pay money to someone, so why not him?"
The Jets are in a unique situation because they will have close to $100 million in cap room and they have a starting quarterback on his rookie contract for at least three more years. They have bigger needs than running back, but this isn't an either/or situation. If they sign Bell, it doesn't mean they can't sign two offensive linemen in free agency. Basically, they can have their cake and eat it, too.
For Darnold to reach his potential, he needs a better supporting cast than the current group, many of whom will be gone in 2019. If they add Bell, re-sign wide receiver Quincy Enunwa and revamp the line, the offense, which hasn't cracked the top 10 in scoring since 2008, will have a chance to be decent.
General manager Mike Maccagnan is smitten with Bell. In fact, he had conversations with the Steelers before the trading deadline. He's already on record as saying he will be very active in free agency, assuming he keeps his job. He will try to make a big splash by reeling in Bell, according to people familiar with his thinking. One variable could be a coaching change. Would a new coach want him?
There are no guarantees in free agency, of course. The Jets' batting average with high-end free agents is poor. Bell plays a wear-and-tear position, so you wonder about longevity. He's already had more than 1,500 touches in his career, although that could be mitigated by his year off. He's also had two substance-abuse suspensions in his career.
No, this wouldn't be like signing Martin in 1998. His character was impeccable and the man who signed him, Bill Parcells, always wanted his best/highest-paid player to be the hardest-working player. That probably wouldn't be the case with Bell, but the Jets are in a position where they have to take the chance. See talent, get talent. The potential upside outweighs the risk.