The Tampa Bay Buccaneers agreed to terms with free-agent running back Le'Veon Bell on Tuesday afternoon, reuniting Bell with Antonio Brown in Tampa. Bell bypassed the practice squad treatment and was immediately added to Tampa Bay's active roster ahead of Sunday's inner-divisional showdown with the Carolina Panthers.
Bell should receive an opportunity to carve out a role for himself in a backfield that is unfortunately riddled with injury. Starting running back Leonard Fournette suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday's shocking shutout loss to the New Orleans Saints and is reportedly heading to injured reserve for a three-game absence. It would end Fournette's regular season, with plans to have him return for Tampa's first playoff game. Fellow running back Giovani Bernard remains on injured reserve with MCL and hip injuries. It should all lead to Bell receiving touches in what now appears to be a muddied three-man rotation that includes Ronald Jones and Ke'Shawn Vaughn, but we don't envision Bell being able to leave much of an impact.
Bell most recently played for the Baltimore Ravens, last appearing in their Week 10 defeat to the Miami Dolphins. Bell was initially signed by the Ravens following a plethora of injuries to their running back room, including season-ending injuries for the trio of J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill. Bell ultimately failed to take advantage of landing in an offense that's built to run the ball at an extremely effective and efficient rate. The former Pittsburgh Steeler carried the ball a healthy 31 times across five appearances in Baltimore, gaining just 83 yards, which equates to a rather pedestrian 2.7 yards per carry.
Bell is simply not the same player that lit the league on fire between 2014 and 2017. In Baltimore, Bell very much looked like a rusher of yesteryear that's unfortunately past his prime. Bell's inability to revive his career in a thriving environment speaks volumes regarding what's left in the tank.
The Ravens are currently averaging 144.7 yards per contest via the ground game, which ranks third in the league behind just Indianapolis and Philadelphia. A pair of fellow veteran backs in Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray succeeded where Bell failed, and have taken advantage of a new lease on life in Baltimore's excellent rushing attack. Freeman has gained 462 rushing yards in 13 games while averaging a healthy 4.3 yards per carry. Freeman has also scored four touchdowns and appears primed to play a crucial role down the stretch. Murray, meanwhile, has been equally as efficient, scoring five touchdowns on just 86 carries. Both Murray and Freeman vastly outperformed Bell under mirroring circumstances.
Bell now has a chance to play alongside Tom Brady and his old running mate Antonio Brown could possibly reignite Bell's fire. The Buccaneers possess a star-studded cast of offensive weapons and are legitimate contenders to capture their second consecutive Super Bowl. Tampa Bay is in the midst of experiencing yet another brilliant campaign, and Bell will be highly motivated to stick around for the inevitable postseason run. History indicates he may encounter some difficulty doing so.